This map was made by taking the latitude and longitude of lynching locations and overlaying them on a map using kepler.gl. The points on this map show the locations of the lynchings that happened in 1894 only.
When comparing this point map to the one from 1893, it is quite visible that many of the locations of the lynchings have not changed. The mass majority of the lynchings took place in the south, below the Mason-Dixon line, the same as in 1893. There were also still relatively high concentrations of lynchings in and around Memphis, Jackson, and Atlanta. Tensions were high in these densely populated cities because for the first time, both black and white Americans were vying for some of the same jobs. Black Americans began to work in mines and factories, and this angered many white people who felt that they should not have their jobs being taken away by African-Americans. Riots broke out at factories and mines because of these labor issues. Tensions were high, and therefore, lynchings in the bigger were more frequent.
This map was made by taking the latitude and longitude of lynching locations and overlaying them on a map using kepler.gl.
From looking at this map it is clear that many of the lynchings that occurred in 1893 were taking place in the south, below the Mason-Dixon line. Considering that this was post-Reconstruction era it is not very surprising. Many southerners were unhappy with the freeing of slaves and the thought of having their entire way of life upended. Whites felt that they needed a way to control all of the newly freed African-Americans. According to Ida B. Wells, lynching became a way to do that.
The large majority of slaves in the United States were concentrated in the south. Obviously, there were slaves in the north as well, but no where near the amount of those in the former Confederate States. This meant that after the Civil War, and the passing of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments that the south was to be facing the largest amount of changes.
These unwanted changes and lust for control led white southerners to take their frustrations out on innocent African-Americans. Time and time again blacks were lynched for “alleged” crimes that they had committed. However, most of these accusations were unfounded and the lynched individuals rarely committed the crimes they were accused of.
It can be assumed that few lynchings took place in the West because the population of the United States from the Mississippi River westward was not as dense or high in number as in the Mid and Eastern United States.
The very first thing I would like to draw attention to in both of the wordclouds are the two largest words in each of the visualizations: Rape and Murder. The fact that these two words are the largest in each of the wordclouds means that those who were lynched were most frequently accused of having committed one of these two crimes.
What does this tell us about the white public’s outlook on African-Americans?
It shows us that whites thought of blacks in the worst possible manner. Murder and rape can be considered two of the worst crimes a person could ever commit — this is pretty unanimous across Western cultures. By accusing African-Americans who were lynched of these two crimes shows that whites thought of blacks as sexual predators, criminals, and incredibly dangerous.
Consider the film The Birth of a Nation, which came out in 1915. This film portrays a black man as a sexual predator who tries to cross racial lines and forcefully marry (and procreate with) a young white girl. The young girl throws herself off of a cliff and kills herself rather than be raped by a black man. Shortly thereafter, the black man is caught and lynched as punishment. However, cases of African-American men being murderous sexual predators are not actually founded in truth. It was just a fear and image that was projected onto them by racist, small-minded white people. I bring this film up because it came out only two decades after Wells released The Red Record. It is also proof of the way that African-American men were viewed by whites, and why they were being accused of such heinous crimes during the 1893 and 1894 lynchings.
I would also like to point out how large the words “alleged” and “attempted” are. In both 1893 and 1894 either one or both of these words were roughly the third or fourth largest in the wordcloud. This is significant because it backs up Ida B. Wells’s claims that the people who were being lynched were being lynched for no reason other than control. “Alleged” means that a person was accused of a crime, but there is no direct proof to back up the claim. According to the wordcloud, “alleged” comes up more frequently than just about any other word other than rape and murder. This would mean that many of the crimes the lynching victims supposedly committed were in fact, made up and without direct proof or evidence that the incident ever occurred.
Therefore, the lynchings were occurring for made up reasons, and presumably, to intimidate the newly freed African-American population of the United States. Whites were using the lynchings as a way to control the black population and segregate the races. These senseless murders and crimes (and lack of prosecution of the wrongdoers) made African-Americans fear for their lives every day. They had to “walk on glass” around white people, look away, and preferably just stay away, otherwise their lives might have been in danger.
I created these visualizations by only looking at the crimes those who were lynched were accused of. The wordcloud with the dark purple background uses The Red Record data from 1893. The light purple is from 1894. The larger the words, the more frequently they occur in the data set. Color also distinguishes frequency as well.
It would seem that Wells documented the lynchings she came across in newspapers. She documented lynchings that happened in the United States from 1892-1894, however, she was overseas in Europe for a large portion of 1893 and 1894. Therefore, it would have been harder for her to acquire all of the data and information about all lynchings happening in the U.S. while she was overseas. Therefore, she relied heavily on newspapers for her information.
What was happening in the United States during 1893-1895?
The 1890s was after the Reconstruction era (dates) but the tension build-up from that time period still lingered. African-Americans were free according to the 13th amendment and this meant massive change in the United States, for both blacks and whites. Freed slaves had to figure out how to make a living, find housing, communities, and support. Generally, they were doing this on their lonesome. Families had been split up time and time again and this left many former slaves in a state of uncertainty once they were freed. Many did not have people to lean on or look to for assistance. Newly freed slaves participated in sharecropping or worked in factories and mines to make a living.
Whites also had to adjust. Now, African-Americans were to be free civilians in society, and occupying towns and jobs that had previously belonged to mostly whites. Jobs in factories and mines would be given to African-Americans(they tended to be cheaper labor) and this enraged the white community. Riots broke out across the eastern and Midwest United States because of the tensions between races and labor. These altercations tended to be quite violent and would often result in death (of both blacks and whites).
This uncertainty that lingered in the air after the Reconstruction Era meant there was a lot of fear, anger, and tension in the air.
This site takes an in-depth look at the lynching data in The Red Record. Frequency of lynchings, causation, and social aspects are all analyzed.
The Red Record was written by Ida B. Wells. Wells had been born into slavery but was later freed because of the passing of the 13th amendment. She was a woman ahead of her time. Wells had many talent and roles throughout her life. She was an investigative journalist, suffragist, and avid crusader against lynching. She was even a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Wells published The Red Record in 1895 to bring awareness to the public about the prevalence of lynchings that were happening in the United States at that time. In The Red Record she wrote about lynchings that happened in the U.S. from 1892-1894. She generally included names, specific dates, location, and the crime that the lynched person was supposedly accused of. Wells argued that the lynching of African-Americans was just another tool used by whites to suppress the black population. It was a form of power and control, and not founded by logic. She also makes it clear that many of those who were lynched were not actually guilty of committing any crime.
The data set was put together by an historian named Caitlin Pollock. She used an algorithm to pull the information she wanted from The Red Record. Pollock created a data set based on name, location, date, and crime allegedly committed by those who were lynched. She also had latitude and longitude included in her data set but they were the same for every single location, so therefore, not right.
I first began by fixing the latitude and longitude of the locations so that they were correct. Next, I wanted to focus on locations of the lynchings and what correlations, if any, there were between location and frequency. I had briefly considered reading through The Red Record page by page and then researching through newspaper to try to determine if those who were lynched were actually guilty of the crimes they had allegedly committed. This ended up taking a massive amount of time and unfortunately I had to abandon the idea. I had also contemplated researching specific individuals who had been lynched and seeing if I could locate them in the census. I did not have much luck with that so I transitioned my focus elsewhere.
In the end, I decided to mostly focus on location and the crimes the lynched had supposedly committed.