Full Text

28. Lynching and Burning Rituals in African-American Literature



In August of 1997, three white men in Elk Creek, Virginia, poured gasoline on a black man and burned him to death. That summary justice, or lynching, along with the dragging death of James Byrd in June 1998 in Jasper, Texas, are the most recent in almost two hundred years of such violence against persons of African descent upon American soil. For observers who believed the practice had ended in the United States, the 1997 incident brought back thoughts of the 1890s, the peak years for lynching in this country. In 1892, 1893 and 1894, an average of two hundred black people were lynched each year. Indeed, it could be argued that lynching almost became a nationally sanctioned pastime, for even in the years in which most deaths occurred, it was impossible to get national legislation passed to condemn or terminate the practice. The Dyer Anti-Lynching bill, which had several sponsors and was presented in Congress on repeated occasions, was never made into law. How could lynching be outlawed, so the logic ran, when black men were still prone to rape white women? Accusations of rape, which were the most emotional cause of mob-inspired lynchings (though other presumed crimes were more numerous), were frequently the incentive that creative artists used to shape their depictions of lynchings. As creators who drew their subject matter from the substance of the lives of the people about whom ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top