What is Lynching

Lynching (lynching) - the murder of a person suspected of a crime or violation of public customs, without trial or investigation, usually by a street crowd, by hanging.

According to one version, it was named after the American judge Charles Lynch, who practiced lynching during the Revolutionary War. According to another - from the name of Captain William Lynch, who introduced the "Lynch Law" in Pennsylvania on extrajudicial corporal punishment - but not the death penalty - in 1780.

The actions of Judge Charles Lynch (unlike William Lynch), firstly, did not carry a pronounced racial connotation, and secondly, they were preceded by a mandatory examination of the merits of the case by the judge personally, without the participation of the prosecution and defense. In general, the actions of Charles Lynch were aimed at maintaining public order in conditions of social and political instability and, in fact, were simplified wartime justice, with the only difference that the verdict was passed by a civil judge.

Unjust murder is widespread in societies of all times and peoples, however, both the term itself and the lynching as a special social phenomenon parallel to formal justice, developed in the United States in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. 85% of American lynching cases occurred in the southern states.

The emergence of lynching as a systematic practice must be traced back to the late 1860s, when, after the defeat in the Civil War, the US South was subjected to military occupation of the North; land was subjected to massive purchase by northern businessmen, the so-called. Carpetbeggers, and the black population, declared completely free from slavery during the war, took revenge on their former masters. To fight the northern occupiers and especially the freed Negroes, a secret organization Ku Klux Klan was established, whose members widely practiced extrajudicial killings. This (so-called First) Ku Klux Klan was decisively defeated by the federal government in the 1870s, but the terror against blacks did not stop. Slavery was replaced by segregation, enshrined in law (the so-called Jim Crow Laws), as well as unwritten etiquette that blacks had to observe. For committing crimes against the general law (murder, robbery, rape of whites), the laws of Jim Crow or unwritten rules of conduct, a Negro could be lynched. Strikers, black farmers and others who threatened the economic interests of the white majority were also lynched. The peak in the number of lynchings was in 1892 (151 victims), new surges in the 1910s; at the same time the second Ku Klux Klan was established, sung by Griffith in the film "The Birth of a Nation".

Along with blacks, although much less often, white Americans were also lynched, as well as other minorities, primarily Italians (on suspicion of collaboration with the mafia), Jews (the lynching of the Jew Leo Frank in 1915 became famous), and English-speaking Catholics. In total, in the United States between 1882 and 1968, but mainly between 1882 and 1920, approximately 3, 500 African Americans and 1, 300 whites were lynched.

Lynching was usually carried out by hanging, but it could be accompanied by torture or burning at the stake. A milder punishment was the surrender of the accused to shame, for which he was smeared with tar, dumped in feathers, put astride a log and in this form was carried through the whole city. After that, the convict received freedom, but was usually expelled from the city. Often, not just disorganized crowds participated in the lynching, but legal judges, mayors of small towns, sheriffs; the place and time of the lynching was announced in advance, as in the case of a legal execution, photographers came there, sometimes shows were staged, like in a circus.

In the 1900s, postcards depicting hanged blacks came into vogue, next to which cheerful and laughing participants in the lynching court were posing; they sent them to their relatives with comments like "Mom, it's me on the left." The federal government banned this type of postage in 1908, but it was illegally printed and circulated until the 1930s.

Although lynching was often condemned by the federal government (especially the Republican Party), there was virtually no legal opposition to these actions: the authorities of the southern states and counties, as a rule, consisted of individuals who saw lynching as a traditional self-defense against the numerous atrocities of blacks. There were cases when the crowd immediately dragged a Negro, acquitted by a legal court and leaving the courtroom, to hang him, and the judge did not interfere with this. In the first half of the 20th century, cases of conviction of participants in lynching are rare.

The fight against lynching under the pressure of public opinion (which was clearly expressed by the famous song by Billie Holiday "Strange Fruit") was launched by the Democratic presidents, FD Roosevelt (who in 1936 did not dare to pass harsh laws against lynching, fearing to lose the support of southern voters) and especially G. Truman. After World War II, lynching became a completely isolated practice, usually associated with the private terror of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and each time subject to investigation.

Lynching no longer exists. In American society, moral support for this practice has disappeared. The destruction of the Jim Crow laws and the equalization of blacks in rights under Kennedy and L. Johnson deprived the mass actions against blacks of legal support.