Reprinted from February 2, 2012
It is acknowledged that legacies and attitudes toward life are carried on through families and down through the generations. And those persons now in their eighties and nineties can tell stories that their parents and grandparents told them about the lynchings and the terror and the days after slavery.
The other side of those stories are the memories, traditions and beliefs of the descendents of the lynching parties and the picnic-goers who came out in crowds to see the lynching spectacle. This is a part of America’s legacy that is dangerous to forget because the tribal motivation to destroy nonmembers is still with us, and it is only a matter of points on a continuum between racism and tribal behavior, between “I don’t like black people” and “Let’s string him up.”
What is foreboding about the politics we’re seeing today is that it’s tribal behavior that is being summoned with what are called “dog whistles” and “buzzwords” of the current campaign. These descendents of the lynchers are the people the “dog whistles” are for. When candidate Mitt Romney says, “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” as he did recently on CNN, he is speaking to the heirs of those who went back to their Christian churches, state fairs and neat houses, and instilled in their youngsters the American values that allowed them to fully love Jesus and freely lynch African-Americans.
Let this list be a warning as to what the “buzz words” are for. They are for the evil we saw loosed on the Jews on Krystallnacht, when the storm troopers came and on this continent with the slaughtering of the indigenous people and the enslaving of Africans to stretch this nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
The names of the African-Americans who were lynched and killed that we publish in this issue are only the tip of an iceberg of terror that was life in the hundred years after slavery. It is only one record. There are others. The record of white men wantonly raping African women during and after slavery can be seen in the browning of millions of black Africans and the creation of the wide-ranging hues we see in African-Americans today. There are others. Author Michelle Alexander writes of the New Jim Crow, a criminal justice system that is designed to capture and destroy the lives of black men and women.
For African-Americans, this list is a reminder of what we’ve gone through and a glimpse of the causes of the fog of post-traumatic racial stress we are enveloped in every day.
The Occupy Movement, like the Abolitionists during slavery, are on the other side of the scale. But instead of the chattel slavery of Africans, their concern is an economic system that is a new and more universal form of slavery where individuals are bound to financial institutions by shackles of debt.
Like the opposition to chattel slavery, opposing debt slavery is a dangerous thing to do, particularly now that there are signed documents allowing the imprisoning of U.S. citizens stateside and holding them indefinitely without trial. If this administration were to change, do not think for a moment that this power would not be used.
When we see the pepper spraying of peaceful protesters, hear of U.S. Marines rolling grenades into residential homes in Iraq, killing peaceful people as a matter of course, the torturing at Abu Gharaib, the virulent threats against the president and his family, the attack on voting rights, the way prison, criminal justice and nonprofit industries are based on African-Americans as fodder, white supremacist groups, Tea Party literature with President Obama pictured as a monkey, Tea Party cartoons of the president with a bullet in his head, jokes about the president and his “monkey” children. No one should forget that these are very dangerous people who are being called to with “buzzwords” and “dog whistles.” They are not just racist hoots, they are tribal calls that summon an energy so ugly at its core that it cannot be hidden by suits and Bibles and a stage full of children.
Let this list also be a reminder to those who believe the “post-racial” talk and insist economics is everything. It is not. The men and women listed here were not killed because they were poor; indeed, some were killed because they were relatively rich. They died because of tribal urges that are tenuously held in check today. We must remain vigilant against them and we must never forget what they are like unleashed.
And finally, this African-American History Month, let us remember that each name had a constellation of families and friends who loved them deeply and who were stricken by the loss. And even in their mourning, had to live with the question of “who’s next?” in the air every day.
As you look at these pages and stop on a namesake or familiar place, know that we are connected to all on the list, and that their cries of pain that were met with howls of laughter, can still be heard and will not be forgotten. David Mark Greaves
“…This inventory is necessarily incomplete. Records are scant. Newspaper reports are scattered. The Tuskegee Institute Lynching Inventory began in 1882 — just before the great surge of lynchings that occurred around the turn of the century — a surge that accompanied the American conquest of the Philippines, defeating the colored fighters of the Philippine War of Independence, called by Anglo-American historians “The Philippine Insurrection.”
This inventory is offered in the spirit of healing and reconciliation, for until the wounds of the Lynching Century are healed there is little chance of reducing the ever so pervasive racism in the United States, as Ida B. Wells put it: The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
Americans have a long way to go to see full realization of the promises of the Pledge of Allegiance, to see America as a land with Liberty and Justice for All instead of liberty and justice for the white Anglo-Saxon economic elite.
This site is dedicated to all the men, women and children that suffered these atrocities. May they never be forgotten.” (The Lynching Calendar http://www.autopsis.org/foot/lynch.html)