Lynching

The practice of lynching reaches a peak during this era. It becomes a death penalty decreed and executed outside the confines of the legal systemčbut frequently with the complicity of local law enforcement. Popular wisdom holds that lynching usually follows charges of rape against black men. Actually, this is the case in only about 25% of lynchings. Other offenses might include murder, looking through the wrong window, or showing disrespect to a white man. Hanging is the image commonly associated with lynching, but often victims are shot or burned alive.

Between 1882 and 1925, there are over 3,783 lynchings recorded in the US., the bloodiest year being 1892. After that, the number goes down, but the percentage of victims who are African American continues to rise. Shortly after it is founded in 1909, the NAACP begins marking every killing by draping a flag that reads "A Man Was Lynched Yesterday" outside its offices. During the Red Summer of 1919, white mobs descend on black neighborhoods in 26 cities and towns, including Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Charleston, South Carolina. Over 100 blacks are murdered, and thousands are left wounded and homeless. The Dyer Bill, which would have made lynching a federal crime, passes the House in 1922 but dies in the Senate by filibuster. The southern senators responsible say it is an infringement of states' rights.


Lynching
Cross burning on Pike's Peak, from The Imperial Night-Hawk, July 18, 1923, a publication of The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Atlanta, Georgia.