AskDefine | Define lynched

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  1. past of lynch

Extensive Definition

Lynch Mob redirects here.
Lynching is extrajudicial punishment meted out by a mob.

Lynching and law

Lynching, an enumerated felony in some states in the United States, is defined by some codes of law as "Any act of violence inflicted by a mob upon the body of another person which results in the death of the person," with a 'mob' being defined as "the assemblage of two or more persons, without color or authority of law, for the premeditated purpose and with the premeditated intent of committing an act of violence upon the person of another." Lynching in the second degree is defined as "Any act of violence inflicted by a mob upon the body of another person and from which death does not result." To sustain a conviction for lynching at least some evidence of premeditation must be produced, however "The common intent to do violence" may be formed before or during the assemblage." The Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill was first introduced to United States Congress in 1918 by Congressman Leonidas C. Dyer of Missouri. The bill was passed by the United States House of Representatives in 1922 and in the same year given a favorable report by the United States Senate Committee. Passage was blocked by senators from the Solid South, all of whom were white Democrats, the only representatives elected since southern states disfranchised African Americans at the turn of the century. The Dyer Bill has since influenced other anti-lynching legislation including the Costigan-Wagner Bill.
The Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill as it appeared in 1922 stated: "To assure to persons within the jurisdiction of every State the equal protection of the laws, and to punish the crime of lynching.... Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the phrase 'mob or riotous assemblage,' when used in this act, shall mean an assemblage composed of three or more persons acting in concert for the purpose of depriving any person of his life without authority of law as a punishment for or to prevent the commission of some actual or supposed public offense."
In the United States, lynching is also defined as a hate crime.
Lynching during the late 19th century in the United States, Great Britain and colonies, coincided with a period of high imperialistic violence and religious-inspired protest which denied people participation in white-dominated society on the basis of race or gender after the Emancipation Act of 1833.

United States

Lynching, as a form of punishment for presumed criminal offenses, performed by self-appointed commissions, mobs, or vigilantes without due process of law took place in the United States before the American Civil War and after across the nation, from southern states to western frontier settlements. The term "Lynch's Law" (and subsequently "lynch law" and "lynching") apparently originated during the American Revolution when Charles Lynch, a Virginia justice of the peace, ordered extralegal punishment for Tory acts. In the South, members of the abolitionist movement or other people opposing slavery were usually targets of lynch mob violence before the Civil War. After the war, southern whites used lynching to terrorize and intimidate freed blacks who were voting and assuming political power. A study of the period of 1868 to 1871 estimates that the Ku Klux Klan was involved in more than 400 lynchings. In the aftermath of war it was a period of upheaval and social turmoil. Reasons mobs gave for lynching blacks was because of crimes they had allegedly committed against whites; however, journalist Ida B. Wells showed in her investigations that many presumed crimes were exaggerated or didn't occur at all.
Not all lynchings in the United States were targeted against African Americans and committed by the Klu Klux Klan. In 1868, 10 members of the Reno Gang, all Caucasian and between 20 and 30 years of age, were lynched on three separate occasions by vigilante mobs in Southern Indiana. There was no formal investigation and no charges were ever filed against anyone.
Mob violence became a tool for enforcing white supremacy and verged on systematic political terrorism. "The Ku Klux Klan, paramilitary groups, and other whites united by frustration and anger ruthlessly defended the interests of the Democratic Party, the avowed party of white supremacy. The magnitude of extralegal violence during election campaigns reached epidemic proportions, leading the historian William Gillette to label it guerilla warfare."
During Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan and others used lynching as a means to control African Americans, force them to work for planters, and prevent them from exercising their right to vote. White Republicans were often victims of lynching as well in the post-war period. Federal troops operating under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 largely broke up the Reconstruction-era Klan.
The Colfax Massacre in 1873 in Louisiana was an event over a few days of political and mass racial violence that resulted in the most African American deaths - 280. Violence erupted over contested elections at the state and local level in 1872, in which the outcome was not settled for months. Both Democrats, who were mostly white, and Republicans, who were mostly black, claimed the local sheriff's office. After blacks sought to control the courthouse, a much larger armed militia of whites gathered to roust them out. Even after people surrendered, they were murdered.
By the end of Reconstruction in 1877, with fraud, intimidation and violence at the polls, white Democrats regained nearly total control of the state legislatures across the South. They passed laws to make voter registration more complicated, reducing black voters on the rolls. In the late 19th century, from 1890 to 1908, ten of eleven Southern legislatures ratified new constitutions and amendments to effectively disfranchise most African Americans and many poor whites through devices such as poll taxes, property and residency requirements, and literacy tests. Although required of all voters, some provisions were selectively applied against African Americans. In addition, many states passed grandfather clauses to exempt white illiterates from literacy tests for a limited period. The result was that black voters were stripped from registration rolls and without political recourse. Since they could not vote, they could not serve on juries. They were without official political voice.
Lynchings declined briefly after the takeover in the 1870s. By the end of the 19th century, with struggles over labor and disfranchisement, and continuing agricultural depression, lynchings rose again. The number of lynchings peaked at the end of the 19th century, but these kinds of murders continued into the 20th century. Tuskegee Institute records of lynchings between the years 1880 and 1951 show 3,437 African-American victims, as well as 1,293 white victims, nearly all of whom were registered Republicans. Lynchings were concentrated in the Cotton Belt: (Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana).
African Americans resisted through protests, marches, lobbying Congress, writing of articles, rebuttals of so-called justifications of lynching, organizing women's groups against lynching, and organizing integrated groups against lynching. In addition, African-American playwrights produced fourteen anti-lynching plays from 1916 to 1935, with ten of them by women. The frequency of lynching dropped in the 1930s. In the South, lynchings rose in the 1950s and 1960s as resistance against civil rights activism. In addition, some whites used bombings to attack activists houses. Most but not all lynchings ceased during the 1960s, but there were some dramatic cases of civil rights workers lynched in Mississippi.
After the 1915 release of the movie The Birth of a Nation, which glorified lynching and the Reconstruction-era Klan, the Klan re-formed and re-adopted lynching as a means to socially, economically, and politically terrorize black populations. Victims were usually black men, and sometimes black women. Lynch law declined sharply by the 1950s.
In The Strange Career of Jim Crow, the historian C. Vann Woodward wrote of the post- World War I period:
"The war-bred hopes of the Negro for first-class citizenship were quickly smashed in a reaction of violence that was probably unprecedented. Some twenty-five race riots were touched off in American cities during the first six months of 1919, months that John Hope Franklin called 'the greatest period of interracial strife the nation had ever witnessed.' Mobs took over cities for days at a time, flogging, burning, shooting, and torturing at will. When the Negroes showed a new disposition to fight and defend themselves, violence increased. Some of these atrocities occurred in the South — at Longview, Texas, for example, or at Tulsa, Oklahoma, at Elaine, Arkansas or Knoxville, Tennessee. But they were limited to no one section of the country. Many of them occurred in the North and the worst of all was in Chicago. During the first year following the war more than seventy Negroes were lynched, several of them veterans still in uniform."
Members of mobs that participated in these public murders often took photographs of what they had done. Those photographs, distributed on postcards, were collected by James Allen, who recently published them in book form and online , with written words and video to accompany the images.

Civil rights law

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees persons the right against unreasonable searches or seizures. Under the "color of law", a law enforcement official—under certain circumstances—is allowed to stop people and search them and retain their property if necessary. Abuse of this discretionary power is a violation of a person's civil rights. Unlawful detention or illegal confiscation of property are examples of such abuse. In deprivation of property, the color of law statute is violated by unlawfully obtaining or maintaining the property of another person. Fabricating evidence or conducting false arrest is a violation of a person's rights of unreasonable seizure and due process. The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution secures the right to due process. The Eighth Amendment prohibits the use of cruel and unusual punishment. These rights prohibit the use of force in an arrest or detention context which would amount to punishment or summary judgment and provide that a person accused of a crime is not subject to punishment without legal process and a trial.
Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241 is the civil rights conspiracy statute which makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same) and further makes it unlawful for two or more persons to go in disguise on the highway or premises of another person with intent to prevent or hinder his or her free exercise or enjoyment of such rights. Depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and any resulting injury, the offense is punishable by a range of fines and/or imprisonment for any term of years up to life, or the death penalty.


In Europe early examples of a similar phenomenon are found in the proceedings of the Vehmgerichte in medieval Germany, and of Lydford law, gibbet law or Halifax law in England and Cowper justice and Jeddart justice in Scotland.
In 1944, Wolfgang Rosterg, a German prisoner of war known to be unsympathetic to the Nazi regime in Germany, was lynched by Nazis in POW Camp 21 in Comrie, Scotland. After the end of the war, five of the perpetrators were hanged at Pentonville Prison - the largest multiple execution in 20th century Britain.
There are also some personal accounts of lynching in Budapest, Hungary, during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against the occupying Soviets.


On November 23 2004, in the Tlahuac lynching, three Mexican undercover federal agents doing a narcotics investigation were lynched in the town of San Juan Ixtayopan (Mexico City) by an angry crowd who saw them taking photographs and mistakenly suspected they were trying to abduct children from a primary school. The agents identified themselves immediately but were held and beaten for several hours before two of them were killed and set on fire. The whole incident was covered by the media almost from the beginning, including their pleas for help and their murder.
By the time police rescue units arrived, two of the agents were reduced to charred corpses and the third was seriously injured. Authorities suspect the lynching was provoked by the persons being investigated.
Both local and federal authorities abandoned them to their fate, saying the town was too far away to even try to arrive in time and some officials stating they would provoke a massacre if they tried to rescue them from the mob.

Dominican Republic

According to an Amnesty International report, lynchings of Haitians and black Dominicans have continued to occur as late as 2006.

South Africa

The practice of whipping and necklacing offenders and political opponents evolved in the 1980s during the apartheid era in South Africa. Residents of black townships lost confidence in the apartheid judicial system and formed "people's courts" that authorized whip lashings and deaths by necklacing. Necklacing is a term used to describe the torture and execution of victims by igniting a rubber, kerosene-filled, tire that has been forced around the victim's chest and arms. Necklacing was used to punish numerous victims, including children, who were alleged to be traitors to the black liberation movement as well as relatives and associates of the offenders. Of course sometimes the "people's courts" made mistakes, or used the system to punish those to whom leaders were opposed. There was tremendous controversy when the practice was endorsed by Winnie Mandela, wife of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela and a senior member of the African National Congress.


In India, lynchings generally reflect tensions between numerous ethnic groups and castes in the country. Typically, lynchings involve upper-caste members attacking lower caste members. However, recent examples include the Kherlanji massacre, where low castes were lynched by other low castes. India has a large scale affirmative action programme for the emancipation of the lower castes. Sociologists and social scientists reject the identification of caste with racial discrimination and attribute it to intra-racial ethno-cultural conflict..

Sources and external links

Notes and references

Books and articles

  • Allen, James (editor), Hilton Als, John Lewis, and Leon F. Litwack. Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (Twin Palms Pub: 2000) ISBN 0-944092-69-1 accompanied by an online photographic survey of the history of lynchings in the United States
  • Bancroft, H. H., Popular Tribunals (2 vols., San Francisco, 1887)
  • Bernstein, Patricia, The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP, Texas A&M University Press (March, 2005), hardcover, ISBN 1-58544-416-2
  • Brundage, W. Fitzhugh, Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, (1993), ISBN 0-252-06345-7
  • Barry A. Crouch, "A Spirit of Lawlessness: White violence, Texas Blacks, 1865-1868," Journal of Social History 18 (Winter 1984): 217–26
  • Cutler, James E., Lynch Law (New York, 1905)
  • Dray, Philip, At the Hands of Persons Unknown : The Lynching of Black America, New York: Random House (2002). Hardcover ISBN 0-375-50324-2, softcover ISBN 0-375-75445-8
  • Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. 119–23.
  • Ginzburg, Ralph 100 Years Of Lynchings, Black Classic Press (1962, 1988) softcover, ISBN 0-933121-18-0
  • J.C.A. Stagg, "The Problem of Klan Violence: The South Carolina Upcountry, 1868-1871," Journal of American Studies 8 (Dec. 1974): 303–18
  • Stewart E. Tolnay and E.M. Beck, A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, (1995), ISBN 0-252-06413-5
  • Allen W. Trelease, White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction Harper & Row, 1979
  • Wells-Barnett, Ida B., 1900 Mob Rule in New Orleans Robert Charles and His Fight to Death, the Story of His Life, Burning Human Beings Alive, Other Lynching Statistics Gutenberg eBook
  • Wells-Barnett, Ida B., 1895 Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases Gutenberg eBook
  • Wood, Joe, Ugly Water,'' St. Louis: Lulu (2006). Softcover ISBN 978-1-4116-2218-0
lynched in Arabic: إعدام بدون محاكمة
lynched in Czech: Lynčování
lynched in German: Lynchjustiz
lynched in Modern Greek (1453-): Λυντσάρισμα
lynched in Spanish: Linchamiento
lynched in Esperanto: Linĉado
lynched in French: Loi de Lynch
lynched in Galician: Linchamento
lynched in Korean: 린치
lynched in Italian: Linciaggio
lynched in Hebrew: לינץ'
lynched in Lithuanian: Linčo teismas
lynched in Hungarian: Lincselés
lynched in Dutch: Lynchen
lynched in Japanese: 私刑
lynched in Norwegian: Lynsjing
lynched in Uzbek: Linch sudi
lynched in Polish: Samosąd
lynched in Portuguese: Linchamento
lynched in Russian: Суд Линча
lynched in Finnish: Lynkkaus
lynched in Swedish: Lynchning
lynched in Chinese: 私刑
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