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A Deed So Accursed

Lynching in Mississippi and South Carolina, 1881–1940

Terence Finnegan

Publication Year: 2013

From the end of Reconstruction to the onset of the civil rights era, lynching was prevalent in developing and frontier regions that had a dynamic and fluid African American population. Focusing on Mississippi and South Carolina because of the high proportion of African Americans in each state during "the age of lynching," Terence Finnegan explains lynching as a consequence of the revolution in social relations—assertiveness, competition, and tension—that resulted from emancipation. A comprehensive study of lynching in Mississippi and South Carolina, A Deed So Accursed reveals the economic and social circumstances that spawned lynching and explores the interplay between extralegal violence and political and civil rights.

Finnegan's research shows that lynching rates depended on factors other than caste conflict and the interaction of race and southern notions of honor. Although lynching supported the ends of white supremacy, many mobs lynched more for private retaliation than for communal motives, which explains why mobs varied greatly in size, organization, behavior, and purpose.

The resistance of African Americans was vigorous and sustained and took on a variety of forms, but depending on the circumstances, black resistance could sometimes provoke rather than deter lynching. Ultimately, Finnegan shows how out of the tragedy of lynching came the triumph of the civil rights movement, which was built upon the organizational efforts of African American anti-lynching campaigns.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-6


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pp. 7-8

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pp. ix-x

I could not have completed this work without the expert advice and assistance of many archivists and librarians who are too numerous to name individually. I benefited greatly from the assistance of the archival staff at ...

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pp. 1-12

At Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln expressed hope that the unprecedented bloodshed of the Civil War would result in a “new birth of freedom” for the American nation, but in the aftermath of the war, white and black southerners engaged in a relentless cycle of violence over ...

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1. “Strictly a White Man’s Country,with a White Man’s Civilization: Lynching in Mississippi

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pp. 13-34

On the afternoon of 26 June 1919, several thousand Mississippians from around Ellisville in Jones County watched eagerly as a mob hanged John Hartfield from a tree near the same spot where Hartfield ...

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2. “To Hell with the Constitution”: Lynching in South Carolina

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pp. 35-57

At the 1912 meeting of the National Governors Association, South Carolina governor Coleman Blease stridently informed his esteemed colleagues that nothing could come between him and the “protection of the white women ...

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3“No Rights for the Negro Which a White Man Is Bound to Respect”: Lynching and Political Power in Mississippi and South Carolina

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pp. 58-101

The desire among some southern whites to invalidate the effects of emancipation and the enfranchisement of black males contributed to an onslaught of terroristic violence that manifested itself in lynching and other forms of repression and coercion. Whites attempted to ...

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4. “The Equal of Some White Menand the Superior of Others”: African American Victims of Lynching

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pp. 102-143

African American resistance to racial oppression resulted in lynching becoming an integral feature of the southern caste system. In the predominantly rural states of Mississippi and South Carolina, landlord-tenant relations were rife with racial conflict; hence, the majority of ...

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5. “An Example Must Be Made”: Lynch Mobs and the Response of African Americans

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pp. 144-185

The size, purpose, and nature of lynch mobs varied across time and space. During the first phase of the lynching epidemic, white-only mobs avoided directing their fury against the African American community as a whole, and some African Americans participated in lynch mobs that ...

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pp. 186-190

In January 1938, as the lynching era drew to a close, the U.S. Senate debated a federal antilynching bill that would have given federal courts jurisdiction in lynchings that were committed by three or more people. At the time, the senior senator from Mississippi ...


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pp. 191-224


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pp. 225-231

The American South Series

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pp. 233-233

E-ISBN-13: 9780813933856
E-ISBN-10: 0813933854
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813933849
Print-ISBN-10: 0813933846

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 829265616
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Deed So Accursed

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Lynching -- South Carolina -- History -- 19th century.
  • Lynching -- South Carolina -- History -- 20th century.
  • Lynching -- Mississippi -- History -- 19th century.
  • Lynching -- Mississippi -- History -- 20th century.
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