Just a word of warning – this post is not going to be very cheery. As I wrote a few weeks ago, my current History class is on Race & Media. We’ve talked a lot about the subject of lynching and there is some important information that I’d like to pass on.
First of all, I learned that lynching was not just an activity that occurred to slaves before the Civil War. Actually, it proliferated after the Emancipation Proclamation. When African Americans were slaves, sadly enough, because they were someone’s property, they were protected more than after they received their so-called freedom. When they belonged to a white farmer, other whites could not harm them without suffering penalties. But, of course, once they were considered freedmen under the law, white mobs could accuse a black male of any number of crimes and subsequently lynch them. Thus, lynching was most frequent in the early 1900s, especially during Jim Crow laws.
If that isn’t disturbing enough for you, here’s the kicker: people sent postcards of lynchings. It was a popular affair. You’d gather up the family and travel to see someone hanged, or burned. Then you’d get a picture postcard and send it to your distant relatives in the North or out West. It is possible that the idea of a picnic came from these types of events, although the word originated much before this. Check out the Snopes article on it and see what you think – http://www.snopes.com/language/offense/picnic.asp.
Now, there is an online repository of lynching postcards on a site called Without Sanctuary.
I’m not going to include any of the examples in this post, but if you feel inclined, it is a pretty powerful site to visit. Each picture includes information about the postcard and anything known about the individual(s) lynched. Some of the inscriptions or messages on these cards are absolutely appalling, but this is an important part of our history to remember and recognize.
Any comments about this topic are welcome. It’s a pretty touchy subject, but I think burgeoning sites that display lesser known archival materials are really important. It’s also great to bring awareness to lesser known archival projects so that they may proliferate and benefit a wider audience.
Next time, look out for some awesome Archival Access and Use information! I just started my online class on Monday and I hope to let you all know what I think about the new online system, Moodle, and the class!