Many Faces of Judge Lynch: Extralegal Violence and Punishment in America / Edition 1

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The word “lynching” has immediate and graphic connotations for virtually all people who hear and use the word. When Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas claimed he was lynched by a Senate investigating committee, he intentionally and deliberately drew on two key components of the term — race and punishment – that stemmed from the long and ugly history of lynching in America. Yet if we follow the history of the term itself – which is over two centuries old – we learn that lynching has had several different meanings over time, with murder endorsed by the community as one of its most enduring definitions. Tracing the use and meaning of the word “lynching” from the colonial period to the present, historian Christopher Waldrep reveals that while the notion of lynching as a form of extralegal punishment sanctioned by the community did not alter significantly over time, the meaning of the word itself changed drastically, paralleling changes in how Americans grappled with law enforcement, community, and most importantly, race relations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Waldrep's widely researched work provides an excellent overview of a horrendous practice in American society."—Library Jourbanal

" insightful and impressive new study..."—David J. Garrow, Los Angeles Times

"...speak[s] powerfully to a general educated audience, alerting them to the ability of language to manipulate."—P.F. Field, Choice

"To the terrifying subject of extralegal violence in the nation’s experience, Christopher Waldrep comes as an historian who seeks to understand it, and not merely to expose it. ...This is an absorbing, disturbing and important book."—Steven Whitfield, Brandeis University

The Los Angeles Times
The Many Faces of Judge Lynch, an insightful and impressive new study by San Francisco State University historian Christopher Waldrep, traces the phenomenon back to its earliest American roots. — David J. Garrow
Library Journal
To the numerous books on lynching and the anti-lynching movement in America, Waldrep (history, San Francisco State Univ.) now adds a detailed study of the word lynching and its changing meaning over 200 years of American history. Legend credits Charles Lynch of Virginia as the term's source, based on his suppression of loyalists during the American Revolution through extralegal beatings and killings. The term became common currency during the 19th century to describe the killing by a mob of an accused individual, regardless of race. Though some newspapers condemned the practice, others saw it as a reflection of the popular will and a necessary means of maintaining order in frontier America. Following the Civil War, white Southerners used violence and terror to suppress black freedmen. By the beginning of the 20th century, anti-lynching activists like Ida B. Wells succeeded in defining the term as exclusively white-on-black violence. However, by century's end some critics began referring to the practice of legal lynching through abuse of the criminal justice system, and the existence of hate crimes against other nonwhites and gays suggest possible new ways to expand the definition. Waldrep's widely researched work provides an excellent overview of a horrendous practice in American society. In contrast to Waldrep's broad study, journalist Wexler's book focuses on the last mass lynching in America, when a mob shot two black men and two black women in Walton County, GA, on July 25, 1946. Though the killings became national news, law enforcement officials failed to identify the killers, and no one has yet been legally connected to the lynching. Wexler uses interviews, newspaper accounts, archival materials, and FBI reports to present the crime's background, police investigation, and aftermath. As with Waldrep's book, this reflective study is recommended for all libraries.-Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ., Parkersburg Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403967114
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Waldrep is Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Chair in History at San Francisco State University. He is the author of several books on racial and extralegal violence in the United States.

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Table of Contents

1. The Origins of the Word
• 2. The Word and the Nation
• 3. “California Law”: The West and the Nation
• 4. “What We Call Murder”: Lynching and the Meaning of Legitimacy in Reconstruction
• 5. “The Indignation of the People Knew No Bounds”: The Lynching Narrative in the 1870s and 1880s
• 6. “Threadbare Lies”: Making Lynching Racial
• 7. Tuskegee, the NAACP, and the Definition of Lynching, 1899-1940
• 8. High-Tech Lynchings: Making the Rhetoric National
• 9. Epilogue: Hate Crimes

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