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Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930

NCJ Number
S E Tolnay; E M Beck
Date Published
311 pages
This historical study provides information and analysis of 2,805 lynchings in 10 southern States between 1882 and 1930.
Chapter 1 presents an overview of the dynamics of race relations in the South during the Reconstruction period, with attention to the role of violence as a means of social control over the indigenous black population as well as violence toward sympathetic whites. Chapter 2 describes the geographical and temporal contours of racial violence during the lynching era. Chapter 3 profiles a basic theoretical model that focuses on the roles of social threat and competition for scarce resources as essential elements in understanding mob violence. One of the most common explanations of lynching was the notion of popular justice, which is addressed in chapter 4. This chapter tests the adequacy of this interpretation and finds it lacking. Chapter 5 addresses the economic dimension of lynching by exploring the connection between mob violence and the price of cotton, as well as the relationship between lynching and other aspects of the "Cotton Culture." The political dimension is considered in chapter 6, which examines whether there is any evidence of a linkage between mob violence and patterns of southern political participation. Chapter 7 examines the relationship between violence toward blacks and patterns of black migration and suggests that the Great Migration may have had a role in initiating the demise of lynching. Finally, chapter 8 summarizes the study and draws some conclusions about the causes and effects of the wave of antiblack violence in the South during the lynching era. 209 references, a subject index, and appended discussions of the creation of a new inventory of Southern lynchings and types of errors and other problems in existing inventories, as well as miscellaneous tables