Lynching, Legitimacy, and Order
The lynching problem is of high national importance. Until America can discover and apply means to end these relapses to the law of the jungle, we have no assurance that ordered society will not at any moment be overthrown by the blind passion of a potentially ever-present mob.
George Milton Fort, introduction to The Tragedy of Lynching by Arthur Raper
Violence was ever present in the Jim Crow order, from its roots in electionrelated voting intimidation and mob attacks during Redemption to its end with the bombings and beatings during the white South’s massive resistance. It was state-sponsored or at the very least state-condoned violence and terror that had stripped civil rights and political and social citizenship from southern blacks, and it was violence and terror that maintained the color line that was subsequently established.
Some white southerners attributed this violence to white southern culture and its “savage ideal.”1 Many white southerners saw violence, especially lynching, as a grim but necessary technique to maintain white supremacy. With Redemption and the establishment of the Jim Crow order, only whites had a legitimate right to use violence if that violence was directed at African Americans whom whites believed violated the color line. In the case of lynching, all whites—those attached to the state or those acting at their own behest—had the power to use force against African Americans. Individual