First read this article on the Henrietta Vinton Davis Weblog.
My friends Chef Elle Simone posted this article about the women who were lynched during the Jim Crow era. The articles names the names and sort of gives a voice to these women and it got me thinking. A few years ago there was this book then documentary called Slavery by Another Name by Doug Blackmon. Its about lots of things but mainly its about post slavery America, jim crow, and how deep the well of treachery really runs. So around that time cross researching some of the things i came across in the book, I cam across this site called Without Sanctuary Lynching Photography in America. Its pretty deep because its basically this collection of the memorabilia these people made and sold and traded from the lynchings. Among the thousands upon thousands of men that perished are also women and children. It is moving, and despicable, and heart breaking and our history.
I can’t really get through too much of it in one sitting, but the thing that i wanted to share, the thing that strikes me so much about the whole pathology of lynching, is this desperate need to strip us of our humanity. I mean you can sick a dog on someone, you can make life itself a living hell, you can have laws that belittle, restrict, enforce, whatever, and all that is horrible and wrong, but to literally hang a person and watch as life is literally ripped from them is what these people needed to exert their superiority in this changing and evolving post slavery world. There was such a fear of the world changing and their places in it being lost or stolen by these lesser beings that the only way to make it right was brutality and murder.
One of the things that troubles me most in our society is this notion of whitewashing the truth. We need to have real talk about lynching because that pathology that seeks to psychologically, if not physically so much anymore, strip us of our humanity is still amongst us. Its subtle now, but its there and when we don’t know the root its easy to overlook the act. We have to speak these names and see these pictures and examine our country’s relationship with black humanity to get anywhere, and that so many folks want to just keep the past the past is why Trayvon Martin got shot in the street, why white womanhood is still in 2014 more sacred than that of black women on so many levels, and why our president is still just strange fruit to far too many people.
I don’t know much, but i know that these names mean something and they should mean something to this whole country and not just during black history month! They contextualize blackness in America in a way that really nothing else can so in a strange way i see beauty or at least i see humanity in these pictures because there was a life and it was taken for very specific reasons and for no reason all at the same time, and that means something.