Sociologist says northern newspapers should apologize for how THEY covered lynchings

Historians in the News
tags: racism, lynching

Charles Seguin (@CharlieSeguin), an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Arizona, is working on a book on the history and politics of lynching in America.

... In a landmark move, The Montgomery Advertiser recently apologizedfor its role in justifying and promoting lynching. But many Northern papers were just as complicit.

Consider these headlines about Southern lynchings from The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, respectively: “Negro Brute Lynched: Attempted Assault on Young Daughter of a Farmer,” “Criminal Calendar: Two Murderous and Thieving Negroes Lynched by a Kentucky Mob.”

In 1893 The Saint Paul Daily Globe ran the headline “Deserved It All: A Brutal Negro Lynched by Indignant Farmers.” From The Brooklyn Daily World in 1891: “This Brute Lynched. Tennessee Negro Pays the Penalty for a Fiendish Crime.”

The New York Times ran the headline “A Brutal Negro Lynched” 11 times from 1880 to 1891.

Sometimes Northern papers were simply parroting their white Southern sources, but the papers were no better when reporting on lynchings in their home states. In 1889, for example, The Michigan Herald ran the headline:

The Michigan Herald also printed a note supposedly written by the white woman who accused the lynched man of assault: “Never did soldiers die on any battle field for a more holy and righteous cause than did these brave boys for the purity of their homes, for mothers, daughters, and sisters.”

My research, and that of many others, shows that Northern newspapers slowly and unevenly became more critical of lynching starting around the 1890s when activists like Ida B. Wells made American lynching an embarrassment in the eyes of the “civilized world” (Britain and Europe generally). ...

Read entire article at NYT

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