Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America

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Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America

Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America

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But once you've seen these, you can't talk about race without factoring in the reality of what African Americans really went through. I try to learn all that I can about the Holocaust, because even today, we learn new and terrible things about what was done in the Holocaust. One probable victim of the Klan was seized for wearing a silk top hat; perhaps he’d ignored a lynching postcard left at his home, its obverse reading “Warning//The answer of the Anglo-Saxon race to black brutes who would attack the Womanhood of the South”—a phrasing that suggests an additional twist to what we normally term Gothic. An important question about WITHOUT SANCTUARY is posed by Hilton Als: Why would any sane person perform the painstaking, and doubtless nightmarish, archival work that underlies the book?

Litwak, whose prefatory essay in WITHOUT SANCTUARY summarizes the history of “extra-legal execution,” points to the numerous cameras visible in some lynching photographs as proof of the “openness and.Looking at this picture, looking at the rest of the pictures in the book if we ever do (something that most of us will never do, something that only some of us should ever do), thinking of that nine-year old child, the question we should ask ourselves is this: what does it take to become one of the crowd? Many people today, despite the evidence, will not believe—don’t want to believe—that such atrocities happened in America not so very long ago.

O'Connor, always smarter than I'll ever hope to be, would have shared Melissa Harris-Perry's view of the now commonly used term "lynching" in regard to political figures, which she invoked recently in the NATION, citing both Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain.I recently visited the Roth Horowitz Gallery in New York City to gaze again at that photograph, and 59 other images of lethal brutality meeted out to blacks by the vigilante's noose. Without Sanctuary provides a photographic record of the phenomenon of lynching, reproducing 98 images, many of them from postcards made as commemorative souvenirs. One of the photographs depicts my known family ancestor, so I wrapped my arms around him and thanked him for his life, for his contributions, for the smiles he must’ve given his beloveds.

As loathsome as the lynchings were, the looks on the faces of the spectators are a whole different kind of horror. Most of them were taken by professional photographers immediately or a short while after the lynching, sometimes during. But the ground slowly drops, until the spectators find themselves under the names of the dead – hanging over them. I thought of Als’s essay for a long time before finishing this piece, before choosing to refer to the image that I have, before exposing these bodies to another set of eyes in another place far away. The photographs are irrefutable evidence of how such events must be recorded to ensure they never again occur.Wolters wrote that despite Allen’s stated intention to focus attention on the white spectators, “the bodies of the lynched black men remain the central feature of the text. Instead they send shock waves through the brain, implicating ever larger chunks of American society.

In that episode the character of Kunta Kinte is bull-whipped for refusing to accept his slave name, 'Toby.At a number of country schools the day’s routine was delayed until boy and girl pupils could get back from viewing the lynched man. Many of these photographs were taken to be sold as souvenir postcards, but people also collected even more grisly keepsakes—fingers, toes and ears—from lynching victims, including sexual organs from those who had been alleged rapists. As chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966, he was one of the "Big Six" civil rights leaders who coordinated the March on Washington. His 1979 book Been in the Storm So Long won the Pulitzer Prize for History, the Francis Parkman Prize and the National Book Award. Cole Blease recerived a finger of a lynched black man in the mail and promptly planted it in the gubernatorial garden.



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