The period following the American Civil War is known as Reconstruction. Leaders across the US needed to reunite, organize, and heal a fractured nation. The US had a very different look to it, namely there were no more slaves via the 13th Amendment that was ratified in 1865.
Despite the new law giving freedom to all enslaved people, there were many who disagreed with this. These people were overwhelmingly located in the south – in such states that had seceded from the nation primarily over the issue of slavery. Groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and other terrorist groups made it their aim to restore black people their “rightful place.”
One way they sought to regain control over the former slaves was through racial terror lynchings. Using the flimsiest of accusations – often completely fabricated – white people would circumvent the established justice systems and murder black people. Murder is often putting it lightly, as they sought to inflict as much pain and torture as possible through barbaric methods. These spectacles were often in broad daylight. On more than one occasion, entire white communities showed up for the event, cheering on the murderers.
These white terrorists often went unpunished for their crimes. Murder was but one tactic, for they also utilized public torture, dismemberment and the rape of black women to keep black communities “in line”. To read even one account of a lynching is truly tragic.
Total Lynchings in American South by State
To be sure, it was not only black people who were lynched. There were also thousands of white people, Asians and Native Americans who were also lynched in that time period. The reasons often had to do with these people directly helping black people, or being sympathetic to the black community and speaking out against lynching.
Of the 4,084 racial terror lynchings documented in the American south between 1877-1950, most occurred in Mississippi. Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas each had over 10% of the total lynchings as well.
Though modern day Americans may think this stain on US history is long in the past, the last “official” racial terror lynching was recorded in 1981 – just 40 years ago. The racial prejudices that once dominated the south never truly disappeared and would appear to have been revitalized in recent years.
Source: Equal Justice Initiative