Posted Oct 30, 2007 07:10 pm CDT
Displaying a hangman’s noose has become an increasingly common practice throughout the country since a civil rights march in Jena, La., last month over a racially charged schoolyard attack that reportedly occurred after a noose was hung in a tree near the tiny town’s high school.
Since then, nooses have been found hanging “in a post office, in a hospital, on a professor’s door, in a Coast Guard cadet’s bag, in a fire station and on a bronze sculpture of the late rapper Tupac Shakur,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
Although some consider such symbolism a prank rather than a full-fledged attack, noose-hanging needs to be understood against the history of lynchings of African-Americans in this country, the newspaper article points out. A total of 4,743 lynchings were documented between 1882 and 1968, and most of the victims were black men. They were usually beaten and hanged, often publicly, and it was not unusual for white families to watch and take photos. “No one was ever convicted of murder in connection with any of the deaths,” the Chronicle states.
“Many white people are unaware of the incredible power of the lynching story for African-Americans,” says Sherrilyn Ifill, a University of Maryland law professor. “Lynching was a message crime. It served to tell the black community that there were boundaries. Don’t get too educated. Don’t vote. Don’t get too wealthy. Don’t look at a white woman.
“It was not just used to punish an individual, but to serve as a threat to others.”
The Jena situation is detailed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post. It discusses a possible Department of Justice investigation of the way the case of the so-called Jena Six was handled by local authorities in Louisiana.