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[Detail] Soldier and Two Women.

Lynching

A 1919 news article quoted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.) statistic that more than 3,000 people were lynched between 1889 and 1918.  Since the Reconstruction era, lynching was a common weapon against African Americans seeking to exercise some of the liberties provided by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

A search on lynch offers numerous newspaper articles on lynching (including the lynching of a 15-year-old girl in 1892). Other articles discuss the efforts of the Anti-Lynching League and attempts to pass a federal anti-lynching law. S. Laing Williams’ article, "Frederick Douglass at Springfield, Mo." describes the late orator’s remarks on lynching at the close of Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition:

[T]he address went straight to the conscience of the audience and disturbed those who would claim a sort of immunity from blame because of their distance from the scenes of lawlessness. How accurately did he prophecy that in a few years lynching in the Northern States would be almost as possible as in Arkansas or Mississippi.  How that baleful prophecy has been fulfilled, we can all bear sorrowful testimony.

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Frederick Douglass at Springfield, Mo.

The criticism of the mentality that allowed for lynching in America appears in the political cartoons, "When Will He Admit This?" (1905) and "Against Race Prejudice" (1906) whose caption begins: "Say what you will, there will never be an adjustment of the race situation in America as long as lynchings and riots are tolerated and the door of opportunity remains closed."

  • What does lynching achieve that other forms of violence do not?
  • What does a lynching imply about the person being lynched?
  • Should a response to mob violence such as lynchings be active or passive? Which is more effective? Why?
  • According to the political cartoons, why is ending racial prejudice essential to stopping a lynching?
  • Do the cartoons' messages have any value for contemporary American society?