A Comprehensive Map of American Lynchings
The practice wasn’t limited to the South, as this new visualization of racial violence in the Jim Crow era proves.
By LAURA BLISS
Jan 17 2017
Lynchings formed the bloody backdrop of Southern life for a century after the Civil War. Between the 1860s and 1960s, thousands of black Americans were killed in public acts of racial terror. Millions more fled to cities in the North and West in an effort to escape this environment. Many soon discovered that, in many ways, the rest of American society was no less racist.
How many lynchings occurred during the Jim Crow era? Where? These are difficult questions to pinpoint. A November 2015 report by the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative found that nearly 4,000 black people were killed in lynchings in a dozen Southern states between 1877 and 1950—a higher number than any previous estimates. But lynchings were not strictly limited to the South. And, although black Americans were victimized in far greater numbers than any group, other minorities were also targets.
A new map project called Monroe Work Today—named after the pioneering black sociologist who gathered much of the data—aims to be the most comprehensive catalogue of proven lynchings that took place in the United States from 1835 to 1964. Not only does it reach back further in time than most studies or maps, it also spans all regions of the U.S. The mapmakers at Auut Studio developed the map as an interactive high-school lesson plan, spending four years synthesizing modern academic research with historical lynching records. Their interactive project lists 4,000 victims of lynchings nationwide, as well as nearly 600 additional victims of “racialized mob violence.”
Map readers can explore the database by bracketing a timeline to specific years. Click on color-coded pinpoints to learn each victim’s name, race, and circumstances of killing. Native Americans, as well as Mexican, Chinese, and Italian workers, were brutalized and murdered. Although the rural South was by far the bloodiest region nationally, no area was really safe. California and Texas emerge as particularly deadly places for Latinos and Asians, especially as those state borders were settled in the late 19th century. “Before this website, it was impossible to search the web and find an accurate scope of the history of American lynching,” the mapmakers write.