Meet MythAmerica Series

Pt 1     Pt 2     Pt 3     

United States of Lyncherdom

"The United States of Lyncherdom" was a scathing article written in 1901 by Mark Twain, about one of the most troubling phenomena of his time-the almost "ceremonial" torture and murder-frequently by burning to death-of people in the public squares of American cities. Witnessed by sometimes thousands of people, who all too often cheered on the ghoulish, fiendish perpetrators. I am convinced that most people in 21st century America are totally oblivious to this dark, demonic chapter that has been left out of the common "American Narrative" covered in our history books. I know I was, until very recently. And I am convinced that it is long past time to shine the light on these events that happened in the lifetime of my own grandparents. There are painful "civic lessons" that can only be learned when we are honest about our own nation's history.

Part 1: "Incendiary Postcards"

This opening article for the series introduces the mind-boggling history of lynching in America, through a collection of professional photos made at such events and sold as "postcards." Included are descriptions of such events in Waco, Texas, in 1916; one in small town Georgia in 1899; another in Cairo, Illinois in 1909; one in Duluth, Minnesota in 1920; still another in Paris, Texas in 1893; and one in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, as late as 1935. These horrific acts were occasionally committed against white men, but the vast majority involved the violent deaths of African American men at the hands of vigilante groups. And occasionally, the violent death of a female, such as the 19 year old pregnant black woman lynched in Georgia in 1918-whose only crime was to protest the earlier lynching death of her innocent husband.

Part 2: "Mass Amnesia"

This entry in the series includes an excerpt from Mark Twain's plea for the insanity to stop, in his "United States of Lyncherdom" essay. His pleas fell on deaf ears. Included in this entry is a description of an infamous lynching of three men the night before Easter in the town square of Springfield, Missouri, in 1906.

Part 3: Heartland, USA

The final entry in this series on the infamy of lynching in city squares of the Land of Liberty and Justice for All covers another infamous riot and lynching that brought thousands upon thousands of "average citizens" to the center of Omaha, Nebraska, in 1919 to view and egg on an orgy of unquenched violence.


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