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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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The convention and tradition have been established by long usage and general

acquiescence . . . . Thus the Klan and the Black Legion merely followed the convention

of lynching as its method and technique had been established against the Negro.



Books by Walter White


The Fire in the Flint (novel,1924) / Flight (novel,1926)  / Rope and Faggot: A Biography of Judge Lynch (1929)

How far the Promised Land? 955) / A Man Called White (autobiography, 1948).

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Books on Lynching & Racial Violence


 The Chronological History of the Negro in America (1969) /  Strain of Violence: Historical Studies of American Violence and Vigilantism (1975)


 But There Was No Peace: The Role of Violence in the Politics of Reconstruction (1984) / Lynch Law ( 1905)  / An American Dilemma (1944)


The Crucible of Race: Black-White Relations in the American South Since Emancipation (1984) / Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. (1989)


Rope and Faggot ( 1929)  /  The Tragedy of Lynching (1933)  /  Race Riot in East St, Louis (1964)  / Urban Racial Violence (1976)  


Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (1968)  /  Violence in America (1969)

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Walter White on Lynching     

By Amy MacKenzie


It was a powerful picture, drawn with swift, strong strokes that flamed upward and seemed to burn themselves upon my vision. And its title, significant in its understatement, reads: “This Is Her First Lynching.”


Immediately, I was recalled to the purpose of my presence in the outer offices of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: I had come seeking an interview with Walter White, secretary of that organization. I returned to the picture on the wall opposite. “This is her first lynching.” So it was, for the small child held on her mother’s shoulder as they were borne along in a mass of overwrought men and women sweeping toward death and murder.

The image of that child persisted, even as I went into the office of Mr. White.

Walter White [1893-1945] rose from his desk which was covered with papers and books, evidence of work already accomplished and still more to be finished, Here was a man who seemed to have a hundred matters requiring his immediate attention, yet he had graciously consented to an interview on the question of the Federal Anti-lynching bill, precisely because that, too, was a matter of primary importance.

His eyes, keen and gray behind rimmed glasses, lit up when I spoke of lynching as an institution in America. His immediate comment was: “the fundamental point in this issue is that too many people consider lynching in its fact and implications merely as they pertain to the Negro. But the emergence of the Black Legion and of anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic feelings is the inevitable result of the lynching tradition in this country.

“Let me explain the operation of this tradition,” he went on. “The attacks begin first on the most vulnerable group, which in America has always been the Negro. The technique is soon established. The public conscience, accustomed to frequent attacks upon the Negro, becomes calloused and shortly comes to accept the denial of court trials. Thus is established the philosophy of bigotry.

“The convention and tradition have been established by long usage and general acquiescence of the public in terrorism and mob violence; the attack is initiated upon the next most vulnerable group. Thus the Klan and the Black Legion merely followed the convention of lynching as its method and technique had been established against the Negro.”

When I asked Mr. White what relation lynching had to the scheme of American life, he replied without hesitation. “To me, lynching is both a cause and effect of the Negro disenfranchisement in many parts of the South. Sheriffs and public officials are elected by white votes and therefore owe no allegiance to Negro citizens. On the other hand, lynching and the threat of terrorism prevents Negroes from working and agitating for the franchise which is rightfully theirs.”

At this point, we were interrupted by the sharp ring of the telephone beside Mr. White. While he answered its call, I took the opportunity to glance about his office. The room, large and square, was lined with low bookcases which were filled with volumes on a variety of subjects. Immediately behind the desk hung an oil painting, which in its throbbing reds and deep browns, as well as in its flat effect, recalled the early Gauguin.

The subject, again a lynching. The morning light, coming through the window to the right struck full on the figure of the Negro which hung heavy and lifeless.

Was this civilization?

I put the question to Mr. White, who returned to our conversation with interest. “Does any other nation, with a degree of civilization compatible to ours accept lynching?”

“No.” The reply from Mr. White was definite. Interlocking his fingers and leaning back in his chair he continued, “America is the only nation, civilized or semi-civilized which countenances such a thing. Of course, the situation is somewhat different in Germany. Conditions there are the result of a national philosophy based on the supremacy of the noble Nordic and maintained by the forces of nice Nazis.”

Citing the recent public hanging of a Negro convict in Owensboro, Kentucky, at which fifteen thousand were reported to have gathered, Mr. White maintained that such conditions are abnormal. “The principle victims, was not the executed man, but the minds and souls of those who witnessed his death. The psychologists and psychiatrists are right when they tell us that the spirit which prompts thousands to gather at such events is sadistic and abnormal. Indeed, the abnormality already affecting those who went to the spectacle became all the greater after they had witnessed it. Owensboro left a terrible and lasting mark on all who participated in the ghastly spectacle.”

Turning to the question of the Federal anti-lynching bill which the N.A.A.C.P., has consistently supported, I asked Mr. White whether there was hope for its success. In answer, he told me that the bill, formerly known as Costigan-Wagner bill, will be re-introduced into both houses of legislation when Congress next convenes. Popular interest in the bill is ever growing and Mr. White feels that eventually the bill will be brought to a vote. Organizations with memberships of forty-two million have indorsed the efforts of Mr. White and the group actively concerned with the bill.

“I have received a great deal of assistance from many Catholic members of Congress, including Representative Clare G. Fenerty of Pennsylvania, Joseph A. Gavagan of New York, William P. Connery of Massachusetts, Raymond McKeough of Illinois, Edward Kenney of New Jersey and Martin Sweeny of Ohio, On the other hand, there are many Catholics who render only lip service to the cause. They have not been concerned with the fight to bring the bill on the floor of Congress, but they may perhaps vote for it when others have brought it to a vote.”

In reply to a question, Mr. White attributed this indifference on the part of so many Congressmen to the fact that their constituents fail to support the bill.

Speaking of the effects of the bill, Mr. White declared that the bill is not a complete cure. “No legislation is,” he stated. “We have laws against murder, yet murder continues. But murder, unlike lynching has always had universal condemnation. One of the achievements of the anti-lynching bill would be to put an end to the possibility of unprosecuted, unpunished lynchings. Lynching thereafter would have no possible public sanction. It would be stamped with federal disapproval.”

Mr. White commenting upon action taken by the Interracial Review, said, “I am very much impressed with the attitude of the Interracial Review in its recent editorials on minorities and mob violence. I hope that this is the beginning of a more lively and continual interest on the part of the Catholic press in America. With the main body of Catholic opinion behind our efforts, along with assistance already given by other groups, our contest would be brief and successful. I am happy to tell you of the considerable aid given by Mother Katherine Drexel and her sister, Mrs. Louise Morrell, in this issue. They have also rendered valuable assistance in the work of Negro education and in the relief  of Negroes in the area of the levee control project on the Mississippi. Mother Katherine’s flaming spirit is a great inspiration to all of us who are working for the welfare of the Negro group in America.”

It was on this note that the interview with Mr. White was concluded. In his own person, he seemed to epitomize the spirit of the whole movement for the advancement of the Negro in this country. With outstanding executive abilities, he is eminently fitted for the work which is his, for he has the power not only to unite the members of his own race but also to draw behind them, in a wall of support, men and women of other races, all to strive for the same high cause and noble ideal. 

Source: Interracial Review, September of 1946

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Walter Francis White (July 1, 1893, Atlanta, Georgia – March 21, 1955, New York, New York) was an African American who became a spokesman for his community in the United States for almost a quarter of a century, and served as executive secretary (1931–1955) of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He graduated from Atlanta University in 1916 (now Clark Atlanta University). In 1918 he joined the small national staff of the NAACP in New York at the invitation of James Weldon Johnson. White acted as Johnson's assistant national secretary. In 1931 he succeeded him at the helm of the NAACP.

White oversaw the plans and organizational structure of the fight against public segregation. Under his leadership, the NAACP set up the Legal Defense Fund, which raised numerous legal challenges to segregation and disfranchisement, and achieved many successes. Among these was the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which determined that segregated education was inherently unequal. He was the virtual author of President Truman's presidential order desegregating the armed forces after the Second World War. White also quintupled NAACP membership to nearly 500,000.In addition to his NAACP work, White was a journalist, novelist, and essayist, and influential in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.  Wikipedia.


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Bill Moyers Interviews Douglass A. Blackmon

Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (2008)

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 14 February 2012




Home  Lynching Index

Related files:  Roy Wilkins and Spiro Agnew in Annapolis   Commentary on "Color Line and War"     The American Institution of Lynching    Walter White on Lynching  Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt  

Editorials on Lynching     Walter White Biography  Walter White Biography Table  Walter White Reviews