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Swift to Wrath

Lynching in Global Historical Perspective

Edited by William D. Carrigan and Christopher Waldrep

Publication Year: 2013

Scholarship on lynching has typically been confined to the extralegal execution of African Americans in the American South. The nine essays collected here look at lynching in the context of world history, encouraging a complete rethinking of the history of collective violence. Employing a diverse range of case studies, the volume’s contributors work to refute the notion that the various acts of group homicide called "lynching" in American history are unique or exceptional.

Some essays consider the practice of lynching in a global context, confounding the popular perception that Americans were alone in their behavior and suggesting a wide range of approaches to studying extralegal collective violence. Others reveal the degree to which the practice of lynching has influenced foreigners’ perceptions of the United States and asking questions such as, Why have people adopted the term lynching—or avoided it? How has the meaning of the word been transformed over time in society? What contextual factors explain such transformations? Ultimately, the essays illuminate, opening windows on ordinary people’s thinking on such critical issues as the role of law in their society and their attitudes toward their own government.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-10

For this section we have chosen essayists who demonstrate that crowd violence occurs in a variety of geographies and times. Clearly a lot of lynching-like violence has happened in many places, some of it authorized by governments, some of it carried out by government agents, some of it carried out by criminal gangs. ...

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Part 1. The Practice of Lynching: From the Ancient Middle East to Late Twentieth-Century Northern Ireland

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pp. 11-14

A funny thing happened to this book on its way to publication. When we began collecting the essays that make up this volume, we had three goals. First, we hoped to encourage scholars to study the spread of the American word lynching throughout the world, ...

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“Vengeance Is Mine”: “Lynching” in the Ancient Near East?

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pp. 15-48

Not only does the act occur with the full approval of David—the sweet singer of psalms and the “beloved” of God—but regardless of the cause, the execution of his royal predecessor’s offspring appears to be nothing less than a “lynching.” A group of essentially innocent bystanders is handed over to a band seeking vengeance for past wrongs, ...

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Witch Lynching Past and Present

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pp. 49-67

Most people think of lynching as a distinctly American crime. The term was coined in the United States in the late eighteenth century, and it usually conjures up images of white mobs hanging African Americans or burning them to death. Certainly the scholarly literature on lynching has had an almost exclusively American focus. ...

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“This Community Will Not in the Future Be Disgraced”: Rafael Benavides and the Decline of Lynching in New Mexico

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pp. 68-96

At 11:15 on the morning of Friday, November 16, 1928, four masked men marched into the San Juan County Hospital in Farmington, a remote town in northern New Mexico. The men seized one of the patients, a Spanish-speaking sheepherder of Mexican descent named Rafael Benavides, and bundled him into the back of a pickup truck. ...

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The Specter of Lynching in France: Familiar Word, Unfamiliar Reality

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pp. 97-115

Lynching is a genuinely American word that most languages have adopted with a loose meaning. In France, for instance, since the press created a lynching mood around the murder of several children in the 1970s,1 public figures under attack from the press tend to present themselves as victims of media lynching— ...

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Informal Justice in Northern Ireland

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pp. 116-132

The epigraphs to this chapter are illustrative of the informal justice that is meted out in Northern Ireland by both loyalist and republican paramilitary groups. Such activities are frequently referred to in the literature and the media as informal justice, popular justice, rough justice, vigilantism, paramilitary “punishments,” and the black criminal justice system.1 ...

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Part 2. American Lynching and International Meanings: How the British, Japanese, Russians, and Slovaks Gave Meaning to American Lynching

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pp. 133-136

Mob violence has a dramatic history stretching far beyond the boundaries of the United States, as the essays in part 1 have documented. The word lynching has its own history as well, one well worth studying, as the word had and has enormous political power. ...

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“Let Each Reader Judge”: Lynching, Race, and Immigrant Newspapers

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pp. 137-159

The heyday of eastern and southern European emigration from roughly 1880 to 1914 brought around fifteen million people to the United States, with more than 225,000 identified as Slovak. Slovaks primarily were fleeing the poverty of their hilly region of Upper Hungary, but many also resented the official Magyarization policy ...

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British Public Debates and the Americanization” of Lynching

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pp. 160-180

As the United States emerged in the nineteenth century as a powerful economic rival to British interests, British politicians and social leaders struggled to determine what significance to attach to the prevalence of lynching in the United States. Rather than representing a specifically defined set of actions, ...

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Lynching across the Pacific: Japanese Views and African American Responses in the Wartime Antilynching Campaign

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pp. 181-214

On January 25, 1942, a mob lynched Cleo Wright, an African American cotton mill worker in Sikeston, Missouri, for rape. Described by antilynching organizations as “the first lynching after Pearl Harbor,” the Sikeston lynching became a new symbol for African Americans’ two-front war— ...

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U.S. Lynch Law and the Fate of the Soviet Union: The Soviet Uses of American Racial Violence

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pp. 215-236

White American businessmen who visited the Soviet Union in the early 1930s often expressed frustration to U.S. consulate officials in Riga, Latvia, that Soviet citizens associated America with the “lynching” of blacks. One man, for instance, complained that the daughter of a Moscow University professor had asked him, ...


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pp. 237-240


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pp. 241-258

E-ISBN-13: 9780813934150
E-ISBN-10: 081393415X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813934143
Print-ISBN-10: 0813934141

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013