- Series: Blacks in the New World
- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: University of Illinois Press; First Paperback Edition edition (May 1, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0252063457
- ISBN-13: 978-0252063459
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930 (Blacks in the New World) First Paperback Edition Edition
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"The best book ever written on lynching." -- Numan V. Bartley, author of The Rise of Massive Resistance. "A nuanced corrective to theories that lynching was a monolithic phenomenon throughout the South." -- Publishers Weekly
From the Back Cover
In 1905, the sociologist James Cutler observed, "It has been said that our country's national crime is lynching". If lynching was a national crime, it was a southern obsession. Based on an analysis of nearly six hundred lynchings, this volume offers a new, full appraisal of the complex character of lynching. In Virginia, the southern state with the fewest lynchings, W. Fitzhugh Brundage found that conditions did not breed endemic mob violence. The character of white domination in Georgia, however, was symbolized by nearly five hundred lynchings and became the measure of race relations in the Deep South. By focusing on these two states, Brundage addresses three central questions ignored by previous studies: How can the variation in lynching over space and time be explained? To what extent was lynching a social ritual that affirmed traditional values? What were the causes of the decline of lynching? An original aspect of the work is that it demonstrates the role blacks played in combatting lynching, whether by flight, overt protest, or other strategies. The most lasting of these were efforts to organize opposition to lynching, efforts that culminated in the expansion of the NAACP throughout the South. The book's multidisciplinary approach and the significant issues it addresses will interest historians of African-American history, the South, and American violence. At the same time, it will remind a more general audience of a tradition of violence that poisoned American life, and especially southern life.
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While this is not a new topic in academia, within the comfortable discipline of history it has been largely overlooked. Because of this Brundage is plowing new fields previously only tilled by social scientists attempting to explain "why." Brundage takes their works and using historical methods adds significant depth to the older analysis. One statistic will suffice to illustrate why his study is critical to an American historian. Our "popular" image of lynching is skewed. Between 1880 and 1930 there were 447 whites and 38 blacks lynched in the American West. This is the basis upon which the movie makers have built their image. In the same timeframe , largely ignored, 732 whites and 3,220 blacks were lynched in the American South.
In turning to this dark topic Brundage attempts to answer three basic questions. First, how can the variations in mob violence over time and space be explained? Second, to what extent was lynching a social ritual that affirmed traditional values? And finally, what were the causes of the decline of lynching? (pgs. 15-16) in my opinion Brundage answered the mail on all three of the these questions.
Brundage was, at the time of publication, an assistant professor of history at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Chicago while his doctorate is from Harvard.
Brundage has organized the book topically rather than chronologically. This suits his intended goals well by allowing him to proceed in a logical manner from catagorization of the phenomena through application of his catagories to the regional examples and finally to explanation of his various conclusions. In his opening chapters he does a marvelous job explaining the social and cultural factors that applied in the American south, and how they contributed to the tragedy. Brundage demonstrates how a "culture of violence" existed in the post-reconstruction South which itself derived from the slavery that preceeded. He goes on to explain how various factors such as the southern "sense of honor" and to a lesser degree economic issues contributed to the severity of the problem.
One of the great strengths of this book is the strong analytic content of the initial chapters. Brundage gives names to phenomena which allows for a better understanding as the text moves through time and space. In one interesting section he identifies the various types of mobs that conduct violence, there are "mass mobs," "terrorist mobs," "private mobs" and "posses." Yet he accomplishes this without losing touch with the fact that this was at all times a very human event. Something which many social scientists seem sometimes to overlook. Brundage never lets you escape the stare of the victim, as he liberally salts the text with vignette after vignette.
In his later analysis of the regional differences in lynching, using his case study states of Virgina and Georgia, Brundage comes full circle. What originates as almost social science analysis returns to firm ground in solid historical analysis. This book is scrupulously researched and amply footnoted. In his use of sources Brudage was cautious, as well he should be since the majority of the sources (primarily newspapers) were either racially condescending or virulent in their opposition. Neither outlook is prone to creating a reliable and unadulterated recitation of the facts of any given event. For all that, Brundage manages to walk the fine line very well, neither appearing overtly partisan nor hiding behind the biases of the sources. What emerges is a balanced account of an American holocaust.
If there are any weaknesses in this work it might be in the almost oppressive use of vignettes. It is almost as though he is pandering to the base instinct of voyerism of violence that makes some other fields of history so popular with the masses even as it is rejected by the profession. (Think "Guns and Trumpets" military history, or for that matter, think of the entire History Channel!) Yet in going back through the text after identifying this fault I could not find a single extraneous example. In each case he is using a vignette for a solid purpose, to illustrate some nuance of the phenomena. My only other complaint deals with his final goal, to understand why lynching passed from the American scene. In this I believe that while he did a great job explaining how it happened, I think that his explanations of "why" are a little too open-ended. Of course, as he himself conceded at the outset, this is really only the first (historical) book on the topic and therefore there is room for much more scholarship in the field.
This book is practically useless. It does have value in showing the depths to which anti-South bigots will go to try to deflect attention from the very real and rampant racism in the northern states. Don't waste your time or money on this bigotry.