The Legacy of Lynching as State-Sanctioned Racial Terror

Speakers

    Gianluca De Fazio
    James Madison University

Cosmos Talk 

Gianluca De Fazio, James Madison University

The Legacy of Lynching as State-Sanctioned Racial Terror

Abstract
After the end of Reconstruction, lynching became an instrument to terrorize Black communities throughout the US South. Each lynching sent a clear message to the whole community about what kind of behavior would not be tolerated and summarily punished. In order to be effective, participants to lynching had to be granted virtual impunity, and for decades authorities tolerated, if not openly supported, lethal mob violence against African Americans. State-sanctioned racial terror was a pillar of the Jim Crow South, and its legacy still shapes American society today. In particular, I would argue that impunity for white mobs, lack of accountability for police brutality, mass incarceration and the death penalty are at least in part a legacy of the lynching tradition. Moreover, as during the lynching era, Black activism and resistance is central to identify and mobilize against these racial terror practices today.