Lynching- To execute without due process of law, especially to hang or burn, as by a mob.

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The term lynching was most likely derived from the name Charles Lynch, a vigilante of sorts who administered rough justice in Virginia. Lynching was a largely popular way of executing a black person who was accused of a crime in the 1930’s. However, it was a process which was not at all just. Imagine being woken up in the middle of the night by an angry, screaming mob and being dragged unwillingly out of your house only to be burned at the stake or hung for a crime which you had not yet been convicted of. Not only did this process take away the right of the said person to a trial by a jury of their peers as outlined in the bill of rights, but it was also used for crimes as minor as swearing in the presence of a woman or for public drunkenness. ( When a minor offense like this could not be found, charges were often invented. For example, if a black man happened to bump into a white woman on the street, he could be accused of assault and be hung the same night. Worse yet, if a mob was convinced that you should be hung not even being in jail could stop that grim fate from being brought upon you. Since the police force was also very corrupt during the 1930’s, it only took a few dollars to have an inmate released to an angry mob. (


Social Characteristics

There were basically two reasons for lynching someone. One reason was if they were accused of a crime, such as rape ,murder or attempted murder. Lynching was considered justice. Another reason was revenge for actions that were not crimes such as looking at or bumping into a white woman. Many victims were burnt, beaten, sexually mutilated, or had their eyes gouged. (

Lynching Statistics

From 1882 to 1968, there were 4,743 people lynched. 3,446 of those were black and 1,297 were white. Mississippi has the most known recorded lynchings with 581, the KKK being responsible for many of these . Of the 581 lynchings, 539 were black and only 42 were white. The least amount of lynchings were in Vermont, Maine, and Delaware with one each and two of them were white.

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Mighty Mary

Mighty Mary also known as Big Mary, was a five ton Asian Elephant who preformed in Sparks World Famous Shows Circus. On September 11, 1916 a hotel work named Red Eldridge was hired as Mighty Mary trainer. The next day Red was bringing Mighty Mary to a pond to have a drink. Mighty Mary went into a rage, grabbed Eldridge with her large trunk, threw him into a drink stand, and forcefully stepped on his head, crushing it into nothing. ( After the story went into the newspaper, hours later a local blacksmith fired several rounds at the beast but not even harming it. Later, people found out that Mighty Mary also killed many more people in the past. The circus owner declared to put it to death, WITHOUT TRIAL. On September 13, 1916, a cold, foggy, rainy day, Mighty Mary was transported by rail to a crowd of over 2,500 people, most children, at a rail yard. The giant was hanged by the neck from a crane. The first attempt resulted in a broken chain, causing Mighty Mary to fall to the ground and breaking her hip. The next attempt was successful killing the beast and later was a widely disputed newspaper story. (Crime Library)
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Laws About Lynching

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Starting in 1909 there were over 200 bills introduced trying to make lynching a federal crime, but they didn’t pass. The first time some one was federally prosecuted of a violation of civil rights was in 1946, however then lynchigs didn't happen as often. Many states now have stance aginst lynching . A person accused of lynching could be prosecuted for several crimes, including riot, lynching, and murder. A person could face two to four years in prison for taking any part in the act of lynching. (American Lynching)

In 1884 AIda Wells, the editor of a small newspaper in Memphis, discovered that out of 728 black men and women that had been lynched by white mobs. Of these deaths, two-thirds were for small offences such as public drunkenness. (

In March of 1892, three African American businessmen were lynched in Memphis. When Ida Wells wrote an article for the paper about the lynchers, a white mob destroyed her printing press and threatened to come after and lynch her. (law .umkc)

Instead of returning to Memphis, Wells went to work for the newspaper, New York age and continued her campaign against lynching. In 1893 she made tours of Britain giving lectures against lynching. While there in 1894 she helped to establish the British Anti-Lynching Committee. (

The Spectacle of Lynching

During the 1930's, a lynching was often considered a community event just as a baseball game or tennis match would be. The whole town would gather in the town square to watch the events unfold. Below is a postcard depicting the lynching of Lige Daniels, Center, Texas, USA, August 3, 1920. The back reads, "This was made in the court yard in Center, Texas. He is a 16 year old Black boy. He killed Earl's grandma. She was Florence's mother. Give this to Bud. From Aunt Myrtle." As you can see in the post card, lynchings were not only attended by men but also by women and young children. The fact that the people who attended this lynching decided to create a post card of the lynched person and of themselves standing below, shows how common place lynching was during this time period. The scene in this postcard is comparable to the way many fishermen show off large sharks or marlins they have caught. This indifference shows that during the early 1900's, black people were considered by some whites to be no better than animals (Sparticus).
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Citations- "Lynching." Lynching. 19 Sep 2007 <>.

Sylvester, Melvin. "Lynchings in America." A History Not Known by Many. 01 Feb 2000. Long Island University. 19 Sep 2007 <>.