EJI Report on Lynching in America Fuels National Conversation


Dozens of local, regional, national, and international media outlets covered last week’s release of EJI’s newest report,Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, prompting public conversations about racial history that EJI believes are necessary to begin a process of truth and reconciliation in this country.

Lynching in America makes the case that lynching of African Americans was terrorism, a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation that was even more pervasive than previously known. It explores the ways in which lynching profoundly impacted race relations in this country and shaped the contemporary geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African Americans. Mass incarceration, racially biased capital punishment, excessive sentencing, disproportionate sentencing of racial minorities, and police abuse of people of color reveal problems in American society today that were shaped by the terror era.

Dozens of newspapers around the country covered the release of the report. Many writers emphasized the importance of acknowledging racial terrorism and identified the absence of public memorials about lynching as a powerful statement about our failure to value African American lives. Editorial boards across the country agreed that, as the New York Times put it, “this history needs to be properly commemorated and more widely discussed before the United States can fully understand the causes and origins of the racial injustice that hobbles the country to this day.”

Hundreds of individuals responded to the report, which sparked a great deal of reflection and discussion on social media. Many people shared how the terror of lynching and the failure to acknowledge it has impacted their families and communities. One writer in Louisiana wrote:

“In 1994, on his deathbed, my grandfather confessed to my parents that he had been part of a lynch mob that had killed a Black man for raping a white woman. I don’t know when this was–probably the late 1930s or 1940s. The sheriff had called the white men together to do the deed. My grandfather helped build the gallows. The rape victim confessed shortly thereafter that the Black man had been not her rapist, but her lover. My grandfather carried this guilt all his life. Of course he never had to answer for what he did. None of them did.

I wish I knew the name of that lynched man, if only so I could find out what happened to the family that he left behind. The ignorance among white people here of my generation (I’m 48) about all that came before us in terms of racial conflict is near total. Nobody talks about it. Ever.”

Media Coverage