The Legacy of Lynching

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Unformatted text preview: The
Legacy
of
Lynching:
Part
I
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp‐ dyn/content/article/2005/09/24/AR2005092400529.html
 
 By
Richard
Morin
 
 Sunday,
September
25,
2005;
Page
B05
 
 For
decades,
scholars
have
sought
to
answer
this
bloody
question:
Why
has
the
murder
 rate
been
disproportionally
high
in
the
South
for
more
than
a
century?
Some
argue
it's
the
 weather
‐‐
hot,
steamy
conditions
setting
tempers
on
edge
and
provoking
deadly
violence.
 Others
blame
widespread
poverty
and
illiteracy.
Still
others
fault
a
so‐called
southern
 "code
of
honor"
that
requires
any
slight
to
be
avenged.
 
 Now
three
sociologists
have
found
an
additional
explanation:
lynchings.
 
 Steven
F.
Messner
of
the
State
University
of
New
York
at
Albany
and
his
collaborators
 examined
county
data
from
10
southern
states
where
historically
reliable
information
on
 vigilante
lynchings
is
available:
Alabama,
Arkansas,
Florida,
Georgia,
Kentucky,
Louisiana,
 Mississippi,
North
Carolina,
South
Carolina
and
Tennessee.
(Some
counties
where
 boundaries
had
changed
were
aggregated
into
groups
of
counties.)
 
 This
data
set,
originally
collected
by
other
researchers,
contained
the
number
of
lynchings
 in
each
county
in
each
state
between
1882
and
1930,
a
period
that
scholars
call
the
"era
of
 lynchings."
Then
they
gathered
homicide
data
from
the
FBI
and
National
Center
for
Health
 Statistics
for
each
county
covering
the
period
from
1986
to
1995.
 
 Based
on
this
information,
Messner
and
his
colleagues
produced
two
maps.
One
showed
 homicides:
Those
counties
with
the
highest
rates
were
colored
black;
those
with
lower
 rates
were
shaded
gray,
while
those
with
the
lowest
rates
were
white.
The
second
 displayed
lynchings,
using
the
same
shadings.
Counties
with
the
most
lynchings
were
 colored
black,
those
with
a
lower
rate
were
gray
and
those
with
the
lowest
rates
were
 white.
 
 A
quick
glace
at
the
maps
revealed
a
chilling
pattern.
The
dark
areas
roughly
overlapped:
 the
counties
with
the
most
lynchings
had
the
highest
homicide
rates,
while
counties
with
 fewer
lynchings
had
comparatively
fewer
murders.
The
overlap
wasn't
perfect,
but
it
was
 apparent
even
to
the
naked
eye,
Messner
reported
in
the
latest
issue
of
the
American
 Sociological
Review.
 
 A
more
sophisticated
statistical
analysis
confirmed
the
relationship.
Counties
with
the
most
 lynchings
had
homicide
levels
roughly
5
percent
higher
on
average
than
those
counties
 with
the
fewest
lynchings
‐‐
a
correlation
that
didn't
disappear
when
the
researchers
 controlled
for
factors
known
to
influence
the
murder
rate,
such
as
population,
poverty,
low
 levels
of
education,
the
percentage
of
young
people
in
the
population,
the
unemployment
 rate
and
the
percentage
of
single‐parent
households.
They
even
developed
an
elaborate
 method
to
account
for
the
code
of
honor,
and
found
that
that
the
correlation
remained
 strong.
 
 Why
would
a
brutal
practice
that
began
more
than
a
century
ago
affect
these
same
areas
 today?
Messner
isn't
yet
sure.
"That's
the
million‐dollar
question.
We
see
these
analyses
as
 the
first
word,
not
the
last."
He
hopes
others
will
join
in
searching
for
the
reasons.
But
 Messner
is
confident
that
"lynching
seems
to
matter
and
is
relevant
to
our
understanding
of
 contemporary
lethal
violence"
in
the
South.
 
 The
Legacy
of
Lynching:
Part
II
 
 Is
capital
punishment
the
modern
equivalent
of
lynching?
 
 Yes,
argue
three
researchers
who
found
that
the
states
that
sentenced
the
most
criminals
to
 death
also
tended
to
be
the
ones
with
the
most
lynchings
in
the
past.
 
 Sociologist
David
Jacobs
of
Ohio
State
University
and
collaborators
Jason
T.
Carmichael
of
 Ohio
State
and
Stephanie
L.
Kent
of
the
University
of
Nevada,
Las
Vegas
found
that
the
 number
of
death
sentences
for
all
criminals
‐‐
black
and
white
‐‐
was
higher
in
states
with
a
 history
of
lynchings.
But
the
link
was
particularly
strong
when
they
analyzed
only
death
 sentences
for
black
defendants.
 
 The
sociologists
theorize
that
the
death
penalty
became
a
legal
replacement
for
the
 lynchings
of
the
past.
They
found
that
the
number
of
death
sentences
in
states
with
the
 most
lynchings
increased
as
the
state's
population
of
African
Americans
grew
larger,
 suggesting
that
"current
racial
threat
and
past
vigilantism
largely
directed
against
newly
 freed
slaves
jointly
contribute
to
current
lethal
but
legal
reactions
to
racial
threat,"
Jacobs
 and
his
colleagues
write
in
a
forthcoming
issue
of
the
American
Sociological
Review.
 ...
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