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Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940 (New Directions in Southern Studies) [Hardcover]

by Amy Louise Wood
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)


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Book Description

March 26, 2009 0807832545 978-0807832547 First Edition
Lynch mobs in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America often exacted horrifying public torture and mutilation on their victims. In Lynching and Spectacle, Amy Wood explains what it meant for white Americans to perform and witness these sadistic spectacles and what they derived from them. Lynching, Wood argues, overlapped with a wide range of cultural practices and performances, both traditional and modern, including public executions, religious rituals, photography, and cinema. The connections between lynching and these practices encouraged the horrific violence committed and gave it social acceptability.

Wood expounds on the critical role lynching spectacles played in establishing and affirming white supremacy at the turn of the century, particularly in towns and cities experiencing great social instability and change. She also shows how the national dissemination of lynching images fueled the momentum of the antilynching movement and ultimately led to the decline of lynching. By examining lynching spectacles alongside both traditional and modern practices and within both local and national contexts, Wood reconfigures our understanding of lynching's relationship to modern life.



Editorial Reviews

Review

"This study incorporates a tremendous amount of information and provides a thorough understanding of lynching as spectacle, which will be of interest to scholars of American religion, the South, and American Studies."
-Journal of Southern Religion

"The scholar interested in southern culture will find the book rewarding."
-Journal of Mississippi History

"Expands our understanding of lynching. . . . Wood's most important contribution is her well-informed discussion of the impact of photography and film on lynching's rise and demise."
-Georgia Historical Quarterly

"This thoughtful and amply illustrated monograph shows how photography served first to cast atrocity as civility and subsequently undermined the practice of lynching by reconstruing what had become folk custom as, instead, an outrage."
-Arkansas Historical Quarterly

"An engaging treatment of the 'spectacle of lynching.'"
-The Alabama Review

"Adds an important chapter to a branch of scholarship that must remain as fluid, and sometimes uncertain, as its subject. . . . Wood, in choosing a ritualized form of violence and a unique set of sources through which to examine it, has made both a wise and creative choice, which has yielded a rich and troubling history."
-Southern Cultures

"The freshness of approach provides a unique perspective and contributes to several fields of study. . . . Wood thinks clearly, demonstrates an impressive range of research skills, and writes well. . . . Offers the best account to date of the American film industry's disturbingly cozy appropriation of lynching in its early decades. . . . [Wood] provides so much primary source material and interpretive aplomb that her narrative rarely wavers in its originality or self-reliance."
-Journal of Southern History

"The public nature of lynching receives heavily researched and imaginative treatment in Wood's readable analysis."
-Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Insightful. . . . One of the work's greatest strengths is the interplay between local and national contexts. . . . An excellent example of how visual culture and theory can enhance historical research without obscuring the argument. . . . Recommended for historians interested in how race and violence worked together to shape popular culture, and vice versa."
-Indiana Magazine of History

"[A] thoughtful, well-researched study. . . . Wood has established the centrality of visual media to the formation of racial identities and the perpetuation of a related culture of lynching more cogently and elaborately than any previous writer. . . . Provocative and lucid. . . . A significant contribution to our understanding of race and racial violence in American history."
-Southern Quarterly

"Wood's effective contribution refines our understanding of the relationship between lynching and culture. . . . Compelling and insightful. . . . A well-executed book that should be read by all who are interested in the cultural relations of lynching."
-Journal of American History

"Should be required reading for all studying racial violence in the South. . . . Wood is admirably balanced in assessing her evidence and placing it in perspective. . . . In evidence, argument, context, and writing, this is an impressive study that will inspire future scholarship and will offer teachers a rich set of contexts to enliven their discussions of race in the era of lynching."
-American Historical Review

"Wood succeeds admirably. . . . One of the most enlightening studies of lynching produced in recent years."
-Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies

"Wood deserves praise for synthesizing the expansive body of scholarship on lynching while offering an insightful cultural analysis of southern white sadism."
-North Carolina Historical Review

"This insightful exploration of lynching's cultural power is a groundbreaking addition to a growing body of scholarship focused on racial violence. . . . Essential."
-Choice

From the Inside Flap

Wood explains what it meant for white Americans to perform and witness sadistic spectacles of lynching and how lynching played a role in establishing and affirming white supremacy. She also reveals how the national dissemination of lynching images ultimately fueled the momentum of the antilynching movement and the decline of the practice. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition edition (March 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807832545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807832547
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,304,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look into American past September 7, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was assigned _Lynching and Spectacle_ in a History class about 20th century America. It was a very shocking sort of book--not a pleasant read, but a very informative one. The author wove first hand narrative in with her writing very deftly, using newspapers, pamphlets, letters, and the like. The pictures were well placed to emphasize the points she wanted to make.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocking November 13, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An informative read that will make you sick as the hanging death of people becomes a spectator sport. I knew going in I was going to be really angry about this and I was so right. It has been more than a month since I finished it and the horrific cruelty and lawlesness still makes my blood boil.And many times the "supposed law" were guilty of opening the jail or were complicit in letting this happen. It will make you think.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book September 7, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Interesting approach to the study of lynching. Thought- provoking and well reasoned thesis. The author adds a new dimension to the lynching literature
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Read April 28, 2010
Format:Hardcover
"It was not that long ago that people in the United States were hanging each other based purely on the color of their skin. Lynching and Spectacle is a well researched, well written account of the horrors we inflicted upon each other and a worthy read."
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