tv Punishment in the Jim Crow South CSPAN February 14, 2016 12:01am-1:14am EST
>> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. >> university of texas and dallas professor natalie ring talks about the common practice of lynching black men as punishment for perceived crimes in the jim crow era south. she describes how socially active african-american women such as ida b wells challenge that your black men as predatory as white women, effective and often played in lynching. prof. ring: in the past few lectures we have been looking at the jim crow justice system. we have talked about convict leasing. last wednesday, we looked at the practices and patterns of lynching. we talked about how white
southerners, politicians are using gendered rhetoric. we talked about the white demagogues and how sexuality and race were used to create support. we talked about the myth of the black rapist. the idea that white women were passive and virtuous, outside of the male-dominated political sphere, the rape of white women was seen as an assault on white honor. we sat through all of birth of a nation. that includes the classic trope. we looked at the mythology of reconstruction. there is the scene where the white daughter of the southern family is stocked by gus, the former union soldier and black
criminal. she throws herself off the cliffs rather than be raped. the the klan comes to rescue. that movie we were looking at an example of that trope. today what i would like to talk about is the way in which women themselves participated in that dialogue. some people want to know what did southern white women have, particularly in the 1890's when it was at its height. how did black women begin to critique the systematic violence perpetrated against their brothers, fathers and friends. in this lecture, i'm going to spend time comparing a woman name rebecca latin america felton with ida b wells. largely the lecture will be on ida b wells. let me just give you a little
bit of reminder about what we examined when it came to lynching. 1890, two or three black southerners were lynched per week whether they were burned or mutilated or shot, we examined how those lynchings are ritualistic, and they follow a certain pattern. we look at the ethical nature of of lynching nature and how it became a southern phenomenon. we looked at the entire cottage industry of photographs sold as souvenirs, the way these photographs were made into postcards. yes, people were posing in the pictures. that was one of the things that was startling to you guys. you look in these photographs and you see there is no shame.
there is no effort on the part of people to hide their faces. in a since there is not a need to do that. extra legal violence -- the lynching of african americans -- is a sanctioned community affair. they were so common during this time, mark twain once called the country the united states of lyncherdom. we looked at how it formed entertainment for white southerners and if they weren't the result of mob violence you might see advertisements that invited people to watch, and the crowds got large. this image here is a cartoon that appeared in 1934 drawn by a cartoonist, it functions the -- it describes the function of the crowd.
you can see from the crowd and from the captions the crowd includes white women and children. the cartoon represents a country lynch mob in front of a farmhouse. they are watching the fire burn out of range. you don't see the lynching per se but it is designed to draw you to the crowd. you see the woman holding up the child. this is her first lynching. what the cartoonist is implying is that lynching was both a communal entertainment but also involve participation of women and children. they are very visual. they are very obvious. these are clips from photographs. i think we did look at -- the photograph was the lynching of rubin stacy.
i'm not sure if we did the ok, we didf -- do those. one of the things i remember is how you guys are looking at this and you were saying the crowd contains white women, children. we can see they were active participants. they came to witness a spectacle. they were there with family and friends. what do you notice about those pictures? they are smiling. >> it looks like an everyday thing. prof. ring: it looks like an everyday thing. no one has any sense of remorse. >> there is no attempt to hide their identity. prof. ring: they are looking directly at the camera. what about what they are wearing? >> they are normal. prof. ring: kind of a formal
look to it. they are dressed up. it is like going to church almost. >> it doesn't show the face of the guy being lynched. prof. ring: i actually cut that off. i wanted you to focus on the faces of the crowd rather than the individual lynched. those are purposefully cut off to highlight and isolate the crowd. if you have white women are participating, they are validating the righteousness of the cause. especially if it involved the accusation of the rape of a white woman by a black man.
you would get anti-lynching advocates that would point to the presence of women and children as evidence of their moral depravity. the existence of white women at lynching was not unusual. it would not be unusual to see children, particularly if these were ones advertised early on. the other way white women might participate is not even necessarily be at the crowd but if the accusation of the crime involved the rape of a white woman by a black man sometimes the crowd or the authorities would go to the white woman and have her verbally make the identification and the accusation herself. sometimes she might serve as the only witness. so, studies of lynching in general haven't focused very much on white southern women and
their responses to rape, particularly early on in the 1880's and 1910s. when we get into the 1910s and 1920s, we see a more vigorous and vibrant anti-lynching movement that does involve white women. a woman from texas became a crusader in her own right. we don't have time to talk about her. we are going to look at her on wednesday when we focus more on texas and what was going on in waco and elsewhere. this is one white woman that was vocal about lynching, about this issue. she was born in georgia in 1835 to prosperous slaveholding family. she met her husband when she was 17 years old.
she was the valedictorian of her high school class and she was giving a speech. her husband was a 30-year-old man in the area who had been married previously but was widowed. he had a daughter, was giving a speech at the high school graduation as well. in a way i guess that is how they met. she married william felton, moved to his farm, he was a well-known political figure in his own right. he ran for the seventh congressional district seat from georgia. she served as his campaign manager. she early on was entering the political arena. she was a sharp woman. she wrote many speeches. she helped draft some bills. sometimes they brag they were
getting two representatives for the price of one. she was very assertive. she ended up campaigning for prohibition. she became a member of the women's christian temperance movement. she was an advocate for women's suffrage. she was concerned about poor white women. she was interested in improving education for poor white women. one of the things she felt known for his her concern that there were a lot of white women on farms, that farms and plantations, that were essentially isolated. she felt they didn't have the proper protection from their husbands. this is something i think she in a way remembered as a child growing up in the rural south. she had this extremely radical
view of female protection. why women should be demanding protection from white men. she made the argument the state government should provide the things white men could not provide. she is best known for a speech he gave in 1897 called women on the farm. she says white women worked extremely hard, women that were on farms and on plantations. she was concerned with lower-class white women, women that were the wives and sisters and daughters of yeoman farmers. they were working in the fields. they also were responsible for raising their children. these are the women receiving absolutely nothing themselves.
their husbands would leave them at home. they were isolated. they will go out and fraternize with their friends. one of the things radical about felton is that in the speech, woman on the farm, she made the analogy these white women were in a perpetual state of bondage. it was a curious analogy to make. she was saying they were like slaves, because these white women weren't a slaves, it was a useful rhetoric to shame them from not providing protections. she said they were isolated on farms and therefore in danger of being raped by black men.
she was known about relying on this trope. she felt this was something that had gotten out of control. black men no longer had a proper place on the plantation, and believed in the notion as a black man as a beast and a rapist. she was upset about the fact black men had been given the right to vote during reconstruction. we talk about the ways in which anxiety about black men having the right to vote politically sometimes morphed into anxiety about social equality. people assumed that if they were were political rights they
going to want to marry white women. it shows up in birth of a nation when you see that sign at the republican rally. equal rights, equal politics. marriage. rebecca latimer felton is one of these women that were vocal about these particular problems of black men posing a threat to white women. she is in a way is leveling an implicit criticism at white men saying, it is their duty that women should have the protection they should have. now i want to turn to ida b wells. i want to focus a little bit more on her because she was another woman that was very forthright and began to speak out against lynching. she had different things to say.
she is one of the most recognized women at the turn-of-the-century that fought racial injustices in the south. what else can i tell you? in some ways, the reason i did that, it is so interesting. they were these women that were known to be very opinionated, very public and loud about what they thought. there was a black newspaper editor who had this to say about wells. if wells were a man she would be a humming independent in politics. she has plenty of nerves. she was sharp as a steel trap. i think that was true. you got to read southern horrors. you get a sense of her indignant
commentary about the issue of lynching. we will get to that in just a second. she was born a slave in holly springs mississippi. we spent the first part of the class looking at what happened during reconstruction. how this is interracial democracy after republicans passed the military reconstruction act in 1867. they divided the south into military districts. they appointed governors, we get the passage of the 14th and 15th amendment. when the military registered the friedman they came in large numbers to vote. they presented new demands. they helped draft new
state constitutions. i am reminding of this because ida b wells' parents were all emancipated at the end of the war. this is a family that got very involved in republican politics and took advantage of the friedman's bureau and what it had to offer. her father was part of this group called the loyal league. they were designed to protect black voting rights. her parents are very strong role models. they work hard. they help places of respect in the community. the other interesting thing, independence in their children. they sent their children to friedmans bureau schools. ida b wells mother showed up at
the school with her in holly springs mississippi, one of the first schools. the both of them went to the school so they could learn together. her parents had 8 children. her parents and her younger brothers died of a yellow fever epidemic. this was a very bad strain. sometimes when you have these strains of yellow fever or malaria or typhoid, often times people would leave the rural area and flee to cities because the city was seen as a safer place. the other concern was if you were to stay put you would be surrounded by all these people becoming ill, and you would become ill as well. 2000 people left the holly springs area.
her parents stayed. unfortunately both her parents and her brother died, caught yellow fever and died in the epidemic. there was ida b wells who was 16 years old with five siblings. she assumed responsibility for taking care of her siblings. ida b wells was a pretty remarkable woman. she grew up in this moment where there were promises of politics for african-americans. mississippi was one of these places where there was a moment in which it seemed possible. mississippi is the state that had two black u.s. senators. we know that reconstruction, and
that last gasp for interracial democracy is wiped out. that is what this course is about. how that moment ended, and the building blocks put in place for jim crow. for her coming of age during reconstruction, intending the friedman school, seeing her father actively involved in politics, she had a sense of the possibility for african-americans. this greatly influenced her. she began her career as a teacher and ended up in memphis, which at the time was 40 miles from holly springs where she grew up. she wrote a weekly column under a pen name. as a journalist, she was very blunt. she did not mince words. she was known for stating her case simply and directly. the other remarkable thing is in
1889 she purchased one third of a business newspaper. it was called the "memphis free speech and headlight." she is the first black woman owner and editor of a black newspaper in the united states. later she became an editor for the "memphis evening star." she became a leading community activist. the other thing you should know about ida b wells, when we discuss how they begin to resist jim crow in the south, wells was one of these women that we see starting to protest segregated streetcars, to agitate against that. when she was 20 years old she
caller: got on to the chesapeake ohio and southeastern railroad. she bought a first-class ticket. we talked about how they were a lightning rod for segregation where this came to the forefront. the railroad refused to let her sit in a first-class car. it sometimes was referred to as the ladies car. in the victorian era if women were traveling alone, this is something ida b wells did regularly, there was a possibility you might be bothered by or harassed by men. the first-class car came to be known as the ladies car. if you bought a first-class ticket you would go into the ladies car. the smoker car was the car that was more of a male space. that was the car that wasn't necessarily the place for women.
you would see men of all classes. the only time you would see a man on a ladies car, if he was a spouse traveling with a woman. early on the streetcars were segregated by gender. over time they become segregated by race. ida b wells but the first-class ticket. she tries to get on the first-class car. the conductor asks her to move to the smoking car. she refuses. she was a tiny woman. only five foot tall. she was very opinionated. she was very persistent. she was literally physically and forcibly removed from the car. the conductor tried to get her -- to pull her out of the seat. she bit his hand. she was literally hanging on. he brought two other men in.
she was literally hanging on and the conductor and the men were able to tear her out of her seat. basically rather than go to the smoker car she decides to get off the train. she believes this is an infringement of her rights and insult to her personhood. she sued the railroad. the state ruled in her favor. there was a state law that required the railroad company to furnish white and black passengers with separate but equal first-class cars. they gave her an award of $200. one year later she was refused entry again. she could not get into the first-class car. she sued again, was given an award of $500. the railroad appealed all the way to the tennessee supreme
court and the decision was overturned. i think these instances in which she is refusing to get into the smoker car, insisting she bought the ticket the way in which she begins to write as an editorial ist. she was incensed about the institution of jim crow law. she was infuriated when she saw african-americans had no protection against violence. she is best known for her anti-lynching campaign. we will spend some time looking at what she had to say in southern horrors. lynching was bad in the 1890's. in 1892 there were 241 lynchings across 26 states. we talked a little bit about how some of those lynchings included native americans, asians,
chicanos, mexican americans and whites, but the bulk were african-americans. lynching becomes more of a southern distinctive phenomenon that involves black men as victims. ida b wells became an advocate, anti-lynching advocate known for penning a couple of pamphlets. she wrote lynch law in georgia. she was writing columns in her newspapers. i have to tell you, at least early on, her understanding of lynching might strike you as conventional. there was an event that caused her to shift her mind in terms of what she thought about why
lynching was happening, and the way the south was explaining this. early on if you had asked ida b wells not do you think lynching is ok as a form of retribution, but if black men had raped white women, she might likely have agreed that was a problem. and that perhaps a fair amount of lynching did involve that. there was something that happened to her that changed her opinion about lynching. this involves three friends of hers. i don't know if you got a sense of it. i'm not sure she talked about explicitly. she had three male friends who owned a grocery store.
this happened to be a grocery store in a neighborhood known as the curve. it was a predominantly black neighborhoods. there were two grocery stores in the neighborhood. the people's grocery, owned by these three black men. another was owned by a white man. in 1892 there were a group of boys, white and black playing marbles together, hanging out by the rival grocery stores and a fight broke out. it wouldn't be uncommon. you see kids playing. they get in a spat with each other. this was an interracial group of children playing marbles. they got into a fight and the father of one of the white players shows up, and he ends up whipping a black child named armour harris. he had won the marbles. that is one of the things that had started the fight. one of the white children's
father shows up, ends up whipping armour, some other adults arrive. armour's father comes, some friends come and they basically get dragged into this fray. a group of white men including the owner of the white grocery store start to fight with armour's father and friends. we have a moment in which these children are playing marbles. they get into a fight. it escalates. this is the jim crow south. it is a moment where it could become something bigger. the parents eventually get involved. it inflamed racial tensions in the community. the owner of the white grocery store winds up inviting a grand jury to indict the people's grocery store for creating a
public nuisance on a rumor that there is a white mob that will attack people's grocery store. ida b wells' three friends are anticipating this attack. they ask for help from the police. the police declined. these men decide they are going to station guards around the grocery store. what winds up happening is the white grocery store owner brings nine deputies with him. he is driven away by the men that are there to protect their own property and turf. they start firing on the group of deputies. it is not clear -- we think they likely to not know -- they did not know this was a group of deputies because there was a rumor circulating that a mob was going to show up.
they come back, they arrest 12 black men come including the three men at the grocery store. over several days, the memphis police come back and arrest more black men at random. we start to see racial tensions getting even more intense. the story gets reported in the newspaper. it is blown out of proportion. and suddenly, the people's grocery store becomes the center of this, this racial tension. what winds of happening is that her three friends who owns the grocery store are in prison and a white mob shows up at the prison, seizes them and essentially executes them. this would be considered a lynching. this is a moment that caused
wells to change her opinion about lynching because initially, early on, she accepted the idea of lynching might actually be the result of rape or, in particular, the result of black men committing other crimes. with this particular moment, she really kind of realized the truth. she understood that lynching was not always a punishment for a crime per se, but it was an active care that was perpetrated against a race of people to maintain control. her friends who owned this grocery store were perceived to be a threat, even though they were upstanding men of their community.
her immediate response, writing editorials encouraging african-americans to leave the south. it was an editorial that was so incendiary that she essentially driven out of the south her office. they burned the building down. to really gets down with her life. -- she barely gets out with her life. she starts the anti-lynching crusade and publishes these pamphlets. one of the things she tries to do in these pamphlets is demonstrate that public consumption about why black men were lynched, were absolutely wrong. she does a really pretty amazing job of deconstructing the inconsistencies in the particular argument because of the crimes they are being lynched for are actually achievements. her friends are successful merchants who were killed.
or she starts the note that maybe you would be lynched if you were a prosperous farmer or if black men decided they wanted to exercise the right to vote, they might need to target a lynch mob. they criticized the south that it is attempting to shield itself by claiming lynching and everything to do with the honor of white women. what she does as she collects these data is looking around and taking a broader look. it is to see that actually, only about one third of the victims had actually been charged with rape. she makes some pretty provocative arguments about what you think is actually going on between black men and southern white women. she tries to invert these assumptions people had.
in the piece of southern horrors you have read, i am not sure she is as explicit about what she thinks the issue is with white men. she is much more clear in chapter one when she thinks about white women and black men as well. can you get a sense of the reading what she might have thought about what she thought about white men and the myths she was trying to deconstruct? you can see why she is driven out. go ahead. >> black girls -- from this reading -- the white, black men
were actually having relationships with those. people are saying they were raping women. they were involved in relationships. the women tried to say it was not rape. she was complaining that men -- crimes against blacks, were not being punished, they were being protected by the black men. they were not sexually doing it. >> what would happen to a white woman who was found out in a relationship with a black man? would she be sentenced to a lynching as well? >> there are several stories about white women. do you remember the stories, mr.
-- what winds of happening to white women who are found in these relationships that are actually consensual relationships? one of the things she tries to do is point out that some of these white women are having consensual relationships with black men and black men are being charged for raping these white women. the inverse of that, we can start and get back to that, she is pointing out that white men are raping black women. many black women were raised as children. even other south has seen an anti-relation laws, regarding interracial sex and the laws in
the early 20th century. she said it is rather hypocritical because these white men are raping black women or harassing black women. perhaps having a consensual relationship but regardless nothing ever comes of that. it is something people turn a blind eye to. what would happen to a white woman that was found in a relationship with a black man? do you remember what she says about that? >> one woman had a child and she had a child that was very dark. a negro child. that woman, she ran away west. >> it would be considered like a scandal.
there is the one story of -- was in that -- she talked about lower-class white women and an array of white women having consensual relationships. >> she was dark. the first one was because of some distant ancestor she had or something. the second one was a doctor. after that, she was forced to leave. >> you might have to leave town. do you remember what else happens? what if you were a white woman who was not married? what if you were -- i think she tells the story of a woman that was 17 and gets in love with a black man --
>> talking about how he would not reveal who the person was, but they cannot do anything to hurt. her family tried to protect her. she was involved. >> there might be an instance where she did not reveal her name. one of the things pretty remarkable about this document is she is taking reports from white newspapers, not black newspapers, but white newspapers. it gives her a certain credibility and the alterations that should begin in in the minds and eyes of white people. she walks you through these different examples and stories in which this happens. she tells the one story about a woman that ends up pregnant.
the women's refuge. she is pregnant and going to the hospital. this is a 17-year-old woman from the country so this is not an upper-class woman who is having a relationship with a black man. this is a woman who is under the care of the refuge. the woman's refuge. an organization that will help poor white women. this is on page 56. >> the woman's gets sent somewhere else.
>> this is the woman that refused to give a name of the father. of the child appeared they cannot get it any information about that on the subject. she gets sent somewhere else because the woman's refuge did not want to get a white woman who had a consensual relationship with a black man. do you recall other issues? >> the minister's wife. >> what did she say? >> she had an affair. they did not lynch a black man,
they put him in jail. and then she finally confessed. >> she had an affair with this man. she accuses him of rape and put into prison. i think he spends 10 years in prison and he gets out she finally confesses to her husband that he did not rape her, that this was a consensual affair. what happens? >> she got a divorce. >> she divorces him. that might happen to a white woman, too. she might be forced to leave down. she might be forced by her husband. if she was an unmarried young woman in the case of the story of the country girl that might wind up thrown out on the streets because it will be seen
as a blemish on your reputation -- >> she was living on the countryside and it was common law marriage with a black man and they try to have this -- they said she was not white. it was not allowed. >> yeah, that was a very interesting case. there was an instance of which a white woman had a potential relationship with a black man. they are accused. they go to court and in court, she actually makes the argument that these african-americans would not be in violation of the laws. >> there was something that i -- it sounded like from this article -- it was a house like
saying all black men would have sex with a white woman in this article showed that they were interested in black men as well. wow, she is kind of buttering it back in the faces of the white -- kind of throwing it back in the faces of the white male. >> it sounded provocative, right? >> hey, the white papers are lying? to the general population? >> yeah, what she is trying to do is deconstruct the notion that all black men are rapists. that they have these sexual desires to rape white women. she does this in a way by talking about what is really going on with white women, white men, black women and with black men and i think, you are right, what she is doing is saying that these white women in some cases
are initiating the sexual relationships. what does it mean to say that white women are initiating sexual relationships at a moment in which the myth of a black rapist was? what is the resumption within that myth about white women? they're pure, virginal, they need protection. what she is essentially saying is white women harbor sexual desire. it is a complete inversion. that is one of the things that aggravated a lot of people. it is one of the statements he made was that she is challenging
the whole construction of white womanhood. passive, virtuous white woman that is in need of protection from hyper sexualized black men. what she is projecting is a lot of these relationships involve consent. and some of these women are initiating and. therefore, that is reflection of white woman's interest in sex. not something that white, southern men want to hear. what she is saying about white men is that they are actually the rapists. they are the ones, if you go all the way back to slavery, you will see these other men that have great black children, black
women. this is something that has been part of southern life almost forever. and that these white men produce children and children are mixed raced children. yet, the white men never seem to be prosecuted under these laws. she also points out a lot of these white men are leading members of the community and -- if she's me -- any kind of punishment that would be given out for violation of one of these anti-miscegenation laws would only involve black men and white women which is something
they cannot think of. >> she also said that when all the men were out fighting the war, there were not any rapes. she is also throwing that idea that all black males were going to rape, wanted to rape white women. why didn't they do it when the white men were not around? i thought that was quite provocative. i hope it was factual. >> that is also very provocative. because, she is challenging -- the one way she can challenge the notion that black men are continually going after white women is to say hey, look, during the civil war when all these white men, had gone away, had left women behind, these are the women on the farms and plantations. here you have all these women in isolation and all these farms and plantations and there possibly under the threat of
>> even in "gone with the wind", all the men are gone. the blackmail -- remember the house servant? for scarlet? they took care of them. never any hints of anything could be happening. >> how is it that black male slaves are portrayed in "gone with the wind"? the images that developed in advertising, consumer culture, film, novel. all of that. i'm not sure that is necessarily the best example of that. in that particular instance, how are they being portrayed? >> they are the typical house servants. >> they were loyal. that they were inherently taskful. >> remember, the slaves were outside dancing. the dance you would think of, the jingle. but, they were loyal during the war. >> again, i am not sure he is necessarily wanting to
perpetuate the notion that they were loyal out of that or loyal because they were a figure. i think what she is suggesting is that black men are -- uh -- not hyper sexualized. that they have a sense of their manhood and masculinity which is respectful of women in general, whether it is black or white women. yes, the issue of loyalty kind of overlaps those particular stereotypes in mythologies, but i think in this particular
instance, they don't necessarily reinforce that area type per se, but show black man were respected individuals, they had a sense of honor and dignity. that, you know, why is it she say in it black men are inherently lucky -- it is premised on the assumption that this is kind of a biological, uncontrollable urge. that somehow the african-american race is moving backward on the evolutionary scale. we talked about the notions of barbarism and the assumption that without slavery black men had suddenly moving backwards. that their sexual desires have been inflamed. >> it was interesting -- the way the minister's wife framed it. the white woman looked very predatory. something -- she brought a gift and was being very polite.
she distracted her children and seduced him. it was interesting. it was like a complete reversal of the black rapist. >> yes, will, that is a very astute observation. here is this black man -- he offers to carry the packages for this white woman and it is the white woman who makes the sexual overtures for him. yes, she is saying, look, the inclination is not necessarily for a black man to sexually assault this woman right away. here he is behaving in a very gentlemanly, kind of like, the way a good victorian man should be. what does she say about, um, you know, black women, per se?
the more common believes of the time that somehow black women were also made more prone to amorality. that they were naturally incapable of having a stable, moralizing influence on black men. that somehow black women could never be respectable. that is the assumption that builds into that mythology that wells is trying to submerge. she is saying that they are the victims themselves. did you notice in southern horrors that there were a few times that she is writing -- she will put a question mark in parentheses or an exclamation point in parentheses? did you see which you are trying to do?
if you look on page 53. and you look at the bottom of -- if you go to the second paragraph up from the bottom. the last paragraph on page 53. if you go to the sentence above that -- >> an african-american men doesn't always rape without their consent. >> yes, but the truth remains afro-american men do not always rape white women without their consent. she is questioning the word rape by putting it -- the question mark in parentheses after the word rape. quit using the word "rape" is