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Maria C Bowling
24 October 2007
Lynching in the United States and Our Literature
As a form of racial violence, lynching was fueled by the ideology of white supremacy which developed and flourished in the Reconstruction era South. The prevalence of lynching during this time is also depicted in the writings of both black and white authors, whom tell two different sides for the motivations for this cruel form of vigilante justice.
When a group of individuals without legal sanction attempt to do harm to another person, usually with a blatant disregard to the accused guilt, this is what's known as lynching. Lynching came about during the chaotic times of the American Revolution, Col Charles Lynch, a justice of the peace in Virginia, and some of his associates would respond to criminal activity in their area (and the confrontation of Tories) in their own way, coining the term 'Lynch's Law' or 'Lynch Law' (Zangrando).
On the American frontier where judcial power was weak and lawlessness seemed to prevail, lynching was viewed by many people as an acceptable form of dealing with criminals. Contrary to this belief though most lynching that occurred during this time was not due to a lack of law enforcement, but motivated by the same politcal and racist agendas as in the reconstruction era South. Crimnals who were alredy in custody of law enforcement were often removed form custody and lynched, often to favor the agenda of a particular class or ethnic group. For example the 'Johnson County War', where disputes over pasture land in Wyoming between large scale ranchers and small scale ranchers was settled when the large land owners (backed by Republican politicians) hired a group of mercenaries to lynch/murder the smaller ranchers (predominatly democrats) on the...