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Reviews507 Urban Vigilantes in the New South: Tampa, 1882-1936. By Robert P. Ingalls. University Press of Florida, 1993. 312 pp. Paper, $16.95; and Lynching in the New South—Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930. By W. Fitzhugh Brundage. University of Illinois Press, 1993. 375 pp. Cloth, $39.95; paper $14.95. Reviewed by Grace Elizabeth Hale, assistant professor ofsouthern history at the University of Missouri at Columbia. She is completing her dissertation, "Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940," and published the essay "'Some Women Have Never Been Reconstructed': The Racial Politics of White Southern Womanhood, 1900-1930" in Georgia in Black and White: Explorations in the Race Relations of a Southern State, 1865-1950, edited by John Inscoe. In 1897 in Alexandria, Virginia, an enterprising tobacco merchant placed an advertisement for his products in the most attention-getting spot in town—the lamppost above the body of Joseph McCoy, an African American lynched for allegedly raping a white woman. Almost fifty years later in Tampa, Florida, another merchant used his Southern Lumber and Supply Company's billboard to condemn vigilante violence. The sign proclaimed "Tar Today, Whitewash Tomorrow," protesting a recent tar and feathering that resulted in the death of a white man active in third-party politics. In their recent works, both Fitzhugh Brundage and Robert Ingalls address the contradictory nature of the rapidly changing South, increasingly integrated within the national economy yet distinctive for its blatant brutality. Far from being a relic of the frontier past that "progress" would soon eliminate, violence became an established method of maintaining racial and class hierarchies between 1880 and 1930. Violence, Brundage and Ingalls argue, was modern. In his fine social history of lynching, Brundage compares the practice of extra-legal violence against both whites and blacks between 1880 and 1930 in Georgia, one of the deep South states that led in the number of lynchings, and Virginia, statistically a much less violent state. Although the image of white crowds cheering on the torture and burning of African American men gripped the region and nation, lynching was a broad and varied practice. By 1893, Brundage says, the lynching of African Americans in the South had become an "everyday event." Focusing on the mobs who performed these acts of violence, he divides lynchings into four general types. Small mobs numbering less than fifty members performed both as terrorist groups that dispensed with the pretense of upholding the law and as private persons quietly punishing an alleged offense. Large groups also acted as posses, often moving beyond their quasi-legal functions, and as mass mobs, sometimes including thousands of participants, that often killed their victims with sadistic ceremony. Criticizing earlier interpretations of lynchings based upon psychological and psychoanalytical theories as ahistorical, Brundage argues that the racism inherent in lynching cannot explain the practice. Seeking an interpretation broad enough to cover banal lynchings as well as those laden with symbolism, he argues that the practice varied across time and place and in form and resulted from the dramatic changes sweeping the region between 1865 and 1930 when southern whites' had profound economic, social, and political concerns. Most commonly, southern white men lynched African American men who somehow threatened white control over black labor. Brundage deals with his topic appropriately. He neither succumbs to the voyeurism of turn-of-the-century white southern newspapers, a practice that historian Jacquelyn Dowd Hall has found feeding a folk pornography across the region, nor distances him- 508Southern Cultures self from the honor of lynching. His concern to examine all of the lynchings in two states across a fifty-year span, however, makes his coverage of individual acts of vigilantism sparse. Carefully chosen case studies would have offered more insight into the white communities that lynched or tolerated lynchers and the African American communities that lost loved ones and struggled to avoid mob violence. Readers will want to know more about mob members—how and why, as James Weldon Johnson asked, did white men turn into beasts? Brundage forces historians to confront the fact that white violence against African Americans was as widespread in the New South as in the Old and more deadly...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 507-509
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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