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A color poster of the movie The Birth of a Nation

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In many ways the lynching (execution) of African Americans after the Civil War represented a manifestation of the effort to “redeem” the South; and was a feature in the emergence of the KKK and Klan-like organizations. Lynching is a violent chapter in American history. African American men (and women) were lynched (hung from trees—hence, “Strange Fruit” a song recorded by Billie Holliday in 1939). Images of lynching reveal the disturbing practices associated with it: violent death, the mutilation of corpses and displays of trophys, transportation and media (newspapers and post cards, flyers, etc.) organizing lynching “events,” the mobilization of large crowds (flash mobs) of white participants and observers, and even the inclusion of children as onlookers. Lynch mobs were unabashedly white supremacist-oriented with the view that only this extreme form of violence would return the south to the “white man’s rule.” However, lynching was not limited to the South–northern society shared in the practice. Scholars have stated that lynching was not perpetrated as a form of vigilante punishment for any specific verifiable crime. While perpetrators of lynching often suggested that a sexual assault against a white female had taken place, the majority of lynchings expose commonplace disputes with whites (property, wages), business competition, petty crimes, or violations of social customs regarding extreme forms of deference to white citizens.

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