Lynching is most often associated with attacks on former slaves in the South after the Civil War due to the potent nature of white supremacy. In all actuality, lynching is any extra judicial punishment such as tarring, feathering, running out of town, and hanging by the hands of a mob. In it's infancy, it was used when organized law was out of reach or simply not established, and was used for Whites as well as Blacks. A few reasons for lynching include rape, theft, murder, banditry, adultery, and other crimes. Also, lynching was primarily favored by White Democrats who opposed the Black and White Republicans. In the case of Blacks during the Reconstruction, reasons for lynching were to implement the Black Codes, which had been invalidated by the 14th and 15th amendments, enforce subservience, and prevent economic competition. The groups such as the Ku Klux Klan sought to suppress Black voting and discourage scalawags, which were southern whites who supported Reconstruction following the Civil War. Lynching began with its focus on partisan politics rather than race, and slowly transformed into the latter as the Reconstruction progressed. The Lynching Era took place from the end of the Reconstruction to the beginning of the Great Depression. But from the years 1868 to 1871, this is what marked the first period of heavy violence in the South.external image Kkk-carpetbagger-cartoon.jpg

In a civil war, the division of a country is cataclysmic. The hostile difference between interests of the North and South weakens every social bond and tends to disorganize society. Therefore in a civil war, as opposed to a foreign war, there is a longer period of time required for the internal dissension to dissipate. It requires an amount of nobility that human nature, unfortunately, does not possess. Out of the ruins of the old, a new society with severe changes and more inclusive laws will emerge, and it is inevitable that there will be social disturbance and acts of violence while so great a change is in progress. In the decade following the Civil War in the United States, there were 2 social causes of vexation and exasperation in the South- “carpet-baggers” and the Blacks. Administration of civil law was only partially and imperfectly reestablished, meaning there was an unusual amount of disorder and violence prevailing in the country, instigated by those who felt disadvantaged in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Rather than worrying about African Americans holding and using political power, whites and blacks alike had to a large extent, begun to accustom themselves to a world where that was not likely to happen, and masculinity of a black man was redefined accordingly. Before, under the oppression of slavery African Americans hardly filled the requirements of a Southern society man. Under slavery, they had not been their own masters, not been a master of the household, and held no political power. This was changing at a bewildering rate. In a scattered fashion during the 1860s, black men were no longer anyone else’s and gained charge of their family. About 200,000 black men had fought for the Union Army, and military service is one of the strongest claims to citizenship and masculinity. This did not make the whites happy. The emancipation of slaves and Reconstruction policy carried out by political leaders in Congress not only brought about changed relations between the two races, but made black domination a real evil and immenent danger. Whites would do anything in their power to set things “right”, once again. They would take the law into their own hands and become the ultimate vigilantes. While lynching was an acceptable penalty for blacks and whites, it was used mainly to strip freedmen of their newfound freedom.

Distribution and Character of Lynching


The above statistics were obtained from an examination of files from the New York Times for three years. This chart helps to portray the distribution and character of lynching at theexternal image Misissippi_ku_klux.jpg time. It is thus shown by the chart that that lynch-law was in operation in nearly every part of the United States following the close of the Civil War. The majority of those lynched in these three years, as given by the times were forcibly taken from custody officers of the law. Some of these lynchings were taken on by vigilance societies, such as the KKK. Nothing is said of attempts to take legal action of these lynches, with only two exceptions. When attempts were made to prosecute the lynchers, it does not appear there was much success. The numbers between blacks and whites appear so close, because there were many more undocumented lynchings of blacks during the time, “unnoticed” by the law. These lynchings were carried out throughout the country, and no one noticed. No one cared. Nothing was done about them.

Various Causes Assigned for Lynching in the Tribune Record

​ Causes for lynching were assigned to eight different classes: Murder, Rape, Assault, Minor Offenses, Desparadism, Theft, Arson, Unknown

Murder Class included:
Murder, attempted murder, accessory to murder, suspected murder, alleged murder, conspiracy to murder, complicity in murder

Class Rape included:
Rape, attempted rape, alleged rape

Minor Offences:
Race prejudice, miscegenation and various other offences

For Whites Included:
Wife beating, cruelty, kidnapping, saloon keeping, turning state’s evidence, refusing to turn state’s evidence, being obnoxious, swindling, political prejudice, seduction, giving information, frauds, informing, protecting a negro, giving evidence, mob indignation, illicit distilling, disorderly conduct, incest, elopement, revenue informer, disreputable character, arrest of a minor, aiding escape of murderer, suspected of killing cattle, prospective elopement

For Blacks:
Grave robbery, threatened political exposures, slander, self-defense, wife beating, cutting levees, kidnapping, voodooism, poisoning horses, writing insulting letters, incendiary language, swindling, jilting a girl, colonizing, turning state’s evidence, political troubles, gambling, quarreling, poisoning wells, throwing stones, unpopularity, making threats, circulating scandals, being troublesome, bad reputation, drunkenness, strike rioting, rioting, insults, supposed offense, insulting women, fraud, criminal abortion, alleged stock poisoning, enticing servant away, writing letter to a white woman, asking white woman in marriage, conspiracy, introducing smallpox, giving information, conjuring to prevent evidence, being disreputable, informing, concealing a criminal, slapping a child, shooting an officer, passing counterfeit money, felony, elopement with white girl, refusing to give evidence, giving evidence, disobeying ferry regulations, running quarantine, violation of contract, paying attention to white girls, resisting assault, inflammatory language, resisting arrest, testifying for one of his own race, keeping gambling-house, quarrel over profit sharing, forcing white boy to commit crime, lawlessness

Timeline :American Revolutionary War:1763-1789
Civil War: 1861-1865
13th Amendment: December 6, 1865
Black Codes: 1865-1866 (Replaced Slave Codes, laid out rights that African Americans had in the South, no
right to vote, could vote and own property and had the right to marry,reinforced the stigma attached to skin
Presidential Reconstruction: 1865-1866
Forming of Ku Klux Klan: May 1866 in Pulaski, Tennessee
14th Amendment: July, 9. 1868
15th Amendment: February 3, 1870
Civil Rights Act of 1875: Gave full access to public accommodations without any regards to race

What Do Baylor University Students Have to Say?



What the Consequences of Lynching Held for America

During the time of Radical Reconstruction, the primary focus of white southerners was redeeming the South. Their goal was to save the south by overturning these radical rulers. One idea was to get rid of the carpet baggers by lynching them or inflict terror upon them through vigilance societies such as the KKK. Many states were “redeemed”; scalawags, carpet baggers, and African Americans were overturned from political office. The final demise of reconstruction occurred when Samuel J. Tilden won the election of 1876 and removed all federal troops from the south. This allowed for native white southerners to gain back the control of their government. The south’s extreme repercussions after Reconstruction held strong consequences for many, especially the African Americans. African Americans saw their rights gained in Reconstruction dwindled away, then disappear and they eventually were replaced by Jim Crow Laws. Also, 40 acres and a mule were promised but never realized because there the government was not willing to take someone’s property and give it away. Because of this, the sharecropping and tenant system emerges and transitions to a system other than slavery to confine African Americans. The failure of the Reconstruction was the inadequacy to provide an economic base for freed African Americans. Slavery was instilled with a new name, and Southerners are hindered by deeply rooted ways of Southern order and racial violence. Lynching would continue to be used to give whites the upper hand and subjugate blacks for years to come. The fight to subordinate blacks is symbolized most strongly through the prime method of oppression lynching. Lynching in this time set into motion years of pugnacious white attitudes that have still carried on to this day.

In our poll, we asked Baylor students when they thought that lynching finally ended in the U.S. Half of our respondents told us they believed lynching still occurred today, and they are correct. On June 7, 1998, the eyes of Americans were opened yet again to lynching. It was apparent that lynching still was happening and the hate behind the crime was still there. James Byrd Jr. was dragged over three miles behind the truck of three white males until he had lost his arm and head. Later, they sawed off his torso and placed it in front of the town's black cemetery. However, the U.S. did progress to add the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999. It eliminated the unnecessary jurisdictional requirements for race, national origin, and religion. It also expanded coverage to include sexual orientation, gender and disability. Although, lynching is still present in our country today, we have come a long way from the amount of hate and prejudice that was most present before during and after the Civil War.


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