Rushdy argues that we can understand what lynching means in American history by examining its evolution--that is, by seeing how the practice changes in both form and meaning over the course of three centuries, by analyzing the rationales its advocates have made in its defense, and, finally, by explicating its origins. The best way of understanding what lynching has meant in different times, and for different populations, during the course of American history is by seeing both the continuities in the practice over time and the specific features in different forms of lynching in different eras.
In Popular Justice, Manfred Berg explores the history of lynching from the colonial era to the present. American lynch law, he argues, has rested on three pillars: the frontier experience, racism, and the anti-authoritarian spirit of grassroots democracy. Berg looks beyond the familiar story of mob violence against African American victims, who comprised the majority of lynch targets, to include violence targeting other victim groups, such as Mexicans and the Chinese, as well as many of those cases in which race did not play a role. As he nears the modern era, he focuses on the societal changes that ended lynching as a public spectacle.
Berg's narrative concludes with an examination of lynching's legacy in American culture. From the colonial era and the American Revolution up to the twenty-first century, lynching has been a part of our nation's history. Manfred Berg provides us with the first comprehensive overview of "popular justice."
This volume contains essays by ten scholars at the forefront of the movement to broaden and deepen our understanding of mob violence in the United States. These essays range from the Reconstruction to World War Two, analyze lynching in multiple regions of the United States, and employ a wide range of methodological approaches.
The authors explore neglected topics such as: lynching in the Mid-Atlantic, lynching in Wisconsin, lynching photography, mob violence against southern white women, black lynch mobs, grassroots resistance to racial violence by African Americans, nineteenth century white southerners who opposed lynching, and the creation of 'lynching narratives' by southern white newspapers.
This book was first published as a special issue of American Nineteenth Century History