At the Hands of Persons Unknown

At the Hands of Persons Unknown

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It is easy to shrink from our countrya€™s brutal history of lynching. Lynching is called the last great skeleton in our nationa€™s closet: It terrorized all of black America, claimed thousands upon thousands of victims in the decades between the 1880s and the Second World War, and leaves invisible but deep scars to this day. The cost of pushing lynching into the shadows, howevera€”misremembering it as isolated acts perpetrated by bigots on societya€™s fringesa€”is insupportably high: Until we understand how pervasive and socially accepted the practice wasa€”and, more important, why this was soa€”it will haunt all efforts at racial reconciliation. a€œI could not suppress the thought, a€ James Baldwin once recalled of seeing the red clay hills of Georgia on his first trip to the South, a€œthat this earth had acquired its color from the blood that had dripped down from these trees.a€ Throughout America, not just in the South, blacks accused of a crimea€”or merely of violating social or racial customsa€”were hunted by mobs, abducted from jails, and given summary a€œjusticea€ in blatant defiance of all guarantees of due process under law. Men and women were shot, hanged, tortured, and burned, often in sadistic, picnic-like a€œspectacle lynchingsa€ involving thousands of witnesses. a€œAt the hands of persons unknowna€ was the official verdict rendered on most of these atrocities. The celebrated historian Philip Dray shines a clear, bright light on this dark historya€”its causes, perpetrators, apologists, and victims. He also tells the story of the men and women who led the long and difficult fight to expose and eradicate lynching, including Ida B. Wells, James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and W.E.B. Du Bois. If lynching is emblematic of what is worst about America, their fight may stand for what is best: the love of justice and fairness and the conviction that one individuala€™s sense of right can suffice to defy the gravest of wrongs. This landmark book follows the trajectory of both forces over American historya€”and makes the history of lynching belong to us all. From the Hardcover edition.If the federal government could be so easily rebuffed, the prospect of their spending even a single day in jail seemed remote. ... Cox, an old friend of Senator Eastland and like him a native of the Deltaa#39;s Sunflower County, had always made the lives of justice Department ... narrowly agreeing to indict the Neshoba mob under the federal conspiracy statutes, Sections 241 and 242 of the U.S. Criminal Code.

Title:At the Hands of Persons Unknown
Author:Philip Dray
Publisher:Modern Library - 2007-12-18


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