Blackmon, Douglas A. Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. Random House, 2008.
In this groundbreaking historical expose, Douglas A. Blackmon brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history—an “Age of Neoslavery” that thrived from the aftermath of the Civil War through the dawn of World War II. Using a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, Douglas A. Blackmon unearths the lost stories of slaves and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into the shadow of involuntary servitude shortly thereafter.
Feimster, Crystal. Southern Horrors: Women and The Politics of Rape and Lynching. Harvard University Press, 2011.
Pairing the lives of two Southern women—Ida B. Wells, who fearlessly branded lynching a white tool of political terror against southern blacks, and Rebecca Latimer Felton, who urged white men to prove their manhood by lynching black men accused of raping white women—Feimster makes visible the ways in which black and white women sought protection and political power in the New South. While Wells was black and Felton was white, both were journalists, temperance women, suffragists, and anti-rape activists. By placing their concerns at the center of southern politics, Feimster illuminates a critical and novel aspect of southern racial and sexual dynamics. Despite being on opposite sides of the lynching question, both Wells and Felton sought protection from sexual violence and political empowerment for women.
Giddings, Paula. Ida: A Sword Among Lions. Amistad, 2009.
Heralded as a landmark achievement upon publication, Ida: A Sword Among Lions is a sweeping narrative about a country and a crusader embroiled in the struggle against lynching—a practice that imperiled not only the lives of black men and women, but also a nation based on law and riven by race. At the center of the national drama is Ida B. Wells (1862-1931). Born to slaves in Mississippi, Wells began her activist career by refusing to leave a first-class ladies' car on a Memphis railway and rose to lead the nation's first campaign against lynching. For Wells, the key to the rise in violence was embedded in attitudes not only about black men, but also about women and sexuality. Her independent perspective and percussive personality gained her encomiums as a hero—as well as aspersions on her character and threats of death.
Goldsby, Jacqueline. A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature. The University of Chicago Press, 2006.
This incisive study takes on one of the grimmest secrets in America’s national life—the history of lynching and, more generally, the public punishment of African Americans. Jacqueline Goldsby shows that lynching cannot be explained away as a phenomenon peculiar to the South or as the perverse culmination of racist politics. Rather, lynching—a highly visible form of social violence that has historically been shrouded in secrecy—was in fact a fundamental part of the national consciousness whose cultural logic played a pivotal role in the making of American modernity.
Ifill, Sherrilyn A. On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-first Century.Rev ed. with foreword by Bryan Stevenson, Beacon Press, 2018.
Nearly 5,000 black Americans were lynched between 1890 and 1960. Over forty years later, Sherrilyn Ifill’s On the Courthouse Lawn examines the numerous ways that this racial trauma still resounds across the United States. While the lynchings and their immediate aftermath were devastating, the little-known contemporary consequences, such as the marginalization of political and economic development for black Americans, are equally pernicious.
Leamer, Laurence. The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan. William Morrow, 2016.
Based on numerous interviews and extensive archival research, The Lynching brings to life two dramatic trials, during which the Alabama Klan’s motives and philosophy were exposed for the evil they represent. In addition to telling a gripping and consequential story, Laurence Leamer chronicles the KKK and its activities in the second half of the twentieth century, and illuminates its lingering effect on race relations in America today.
Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror. 3rd ed., Equal Justice Initiative, 2015.
Lynching in America makes the case that lynching of African Americans was terrorism, a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation. Lynchings were violent and public events that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. This was not “frontier justice” carried out by a few marginalized vigilantes or extremists. Instead, many African Americans who were never accused of any crime were tortured and murdered in front of picnicking spectators (including elected officials and prominent citizens) for bumping into a white person, or wearing their military uniforms after World War I, or not using the appropriate title when addressing a white person. People who participated in lynchings were celebrated and acted with impunity.
McGovern, James R.Anatomy of a Lynching: the Killing of Claude Neal. Rev. ed. with foreword by Manfred Berg, Louisiana State University Press, 2014.
First published in 1982, James R. McGovern’s Anatomy of a Lynching unflinchingly reconstructs the grim events surrounding the death of Claude Neal, one of the estimated three thousand blacks who died at the hands of southern lynch mobs in the six decades between the 1880s and the outbreak of World War II.
Metress, Christopher. The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative. University of Virginia Press, 2002.
With a collection of more than one hundred documents spanning almost half a century, Christopher Metress retells Till’s story in a unique and daring way. Juxtaposing news accounts and investigative journalism with memoirs, poetry, and fiction, this documentary narrative not only includes material by such prominent figures as Hodding Carter, Chester Himes, Eleanor Roosevelt, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Eldridge Cleaver, Bob Dylan, John Edgar Wideman, Lewis Nordan, and Michael Eric Dyson, but it also contains several previously unpublished works—among them a newly discovered Langston Hughes poem—and a generous selection of hard-to-find documents never before collected.
Mitchell, Koritha. Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930. University of Illinois Press, 2012.
Often available in periodicals, lynching plays were read aloud or acted out by black church members, schoolchildren, and families. Koritha Mitchell shows that African Americans performed and read the scripts in community settings to certify to each other that lynching victims were not the isolated brutes that dominant discourses made them out to be. Instead, the play scripts often described victims as honorable heads of households being torn from model domestic units by white violence. In closely analyzing the political and spiritual uses of black theatre during the Progressive Era, Mitchell demonstrates that audiences were shown affective ties in black families, a subject often erased in mainstream images of African Americans.
Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Spiegel & Grau, 2014.
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.
Ore, Ersula J. Lynching: Violence, Rhetoric, and American Identity.University Press of Mississippi, 2019.
Ersula J. Ore investigates lynching as a racialized practice of civic engagement, in effect an argument against black inclusion within the changing nation. Ore scrutinizes the civic roots of lynching, the relationship between lynching and white constitutionalism, and contemporary manifestations of lynching discourse and logic today. From the 1880s onward, lynchings, she finds, manifested a violent form of symbolic action that called a national public into existence, denoted citizenship, and upheld political community.
Shin, Sun Yung, ed. A Good Time for Truth: Race in Minnesota. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2016.
In this provocative book, sixteen of Minnesota’s best writers provide a range of perspectives on what it is like to live as a person of color in Minnesota. They give readers a splendid gift: the gift of touching another human being’s inner reality, behind masks and veils and politeness. They bring us generously into experiences that we must understand if we are to come together in real relationships. Minnesota communities struggle with some of the nation’s worst racial disparities. As its authors confront and consider the realities that lie beneath the numbers, this book provides an important tool to those who want to be part of closing those gaps.
Wideman, John Edgar. Writing to Save a Life. 1st ed., Scribner, 2016.
In 1955, Emmett Till, aged fourteen, traveled from his home in Chicago to visit family in Mississippi. Several weeks later, he returned, dead; allegedly, he whistled at a white woman. His mother, Mamie, wanted the world to see what had been done to her son. She chose to leave his casket open. Images of her brutalized boy were published widely. While Emmett’s story is known, there’s a dark side note that’s rarely mentioned. Ten years earlier, Emmett’s father was executed by the Army for rape and murder. In Writing to Save a Life, John Edgar Wideman searches for Louis Till, a silent victim of American injustice.
Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. Random House, 2010.
In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great-untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. Penguin Random House, 2015.
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son.