• Angela D. Sims
Part of the Black Religion/Womanist Thought/Social Justice book series (BRWT)


Lynching,1 the malicious taking of an alleged criminal’s life without benefit of due process of law, has been a frequent occurrence in human history. During the late nineteenth- and early twentieth century, mob rule in America developed in a society that justified morally reprehensible behavior through a selective interpretation of legislation which, in turn, led to outbreaks of executions of terror. As a result, lynching, clearly a violently destructive act, was perceived by many citizens as acceptable. This heinous practice, dependent to a large degree on a climate of fear, often accompanied by torture, functioned to preserve a desired lifestyle contingent on the perpetuation of socially constructed divisions of race, gender, and social location. As Kate Tuttle noted in a 2005 article on lynching,

[D]espite its stated justification—that lynching is merely a response to crime—in most cases victims had. not been convicted, or even charged. with a specific crime— Because of its unpredictability and extralegal nature—black men knew that they could become victims at any time, for any reason—lynching cast a shadow greater than its 3,386 known black (mostly male) victims between 1882 and 1930. It is almost certain that these numbers are understated.2


Hate Crime Christian Ethic Oppressed People Chattel Slavery Selective Interpretation 
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  1. 1.
    Although Wells’s anti-lynching publications serve as the primary basis from which a Christian ethic of resistance is delineated in this study, the following works indicate the broad range of sources that address the topic of lynching. James Cutler, Lynch Law: An Investigation into the History of Lynching in the United States (New York: Longmans, Green, 1905)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Kate Tuttle, “Lynching,” ed. Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, 2nd ed., volume 3 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 663.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Arthur F. Raper, The Tragedy of Lynching (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1933Google Scholar
  4. 39.
    For additional information on womanist ethical frameworks see Katie Geneva Cannon, Katie’s Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community (New York: Continuum, 1995)Google Scholar

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© Angela D. Sims 2010

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  • Angela D. Sims

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