Hundreds of white people came to see the bodies of Laura Nelson and her teenaged son, L.W., who were lynched by a white mob in Okemah, Oklahoma, on May 25, 1911.
Racial terror lynchings extended beyond the American South, according to new data released by EJI. In addition to more than 4000 terror lynchings that EJI documented in 12 Southern states between 1880 and 1940, more than 300 African Americans were lynched in documented acts of racial terrorism in states outside the Deep South. Racial terror lynchings were horrific acts of targeted violence against African Americans by white mobs who murdered black people with no risk of accountability or punishment.
In an expanded edition of Lynching in America, EJI documents racial terrorism beyond Southern borders, detailing more than 300 lynchings of black people in eight states with high lynching rates in the Midwest and the Upper South, including Oklahoma (76 lynchings), Missouri (60), Illinois (56), West Virginia (35), Maryland (28), Kansas (19), Indiana (18), and Ohio (15).
"Racial terror lynching was a national problem. Hundreds of lynchings took place outside the American South, and millions of people fled to the North, Midwest, and West seeking shelter from the terror," said EJI Director Bryan Stevenson.
Racial terror lynchings were deeply traumatizing to African Americans, many of whom had fled terror and violence in the American South seeking greater security and protection in Northern and Midwestern states. Lynching victims were often murdered in front of crowds of hundreds of people who cheered on unmasked perpetrators of brutal torture. Law enforcement officials and people associated with the justice system rarely intervened and many assisted in these violent acts of terrorism.
"The legacy of lynching in America is devastating, and it is made worse by our continued silence about this history," Stevenson said. "Our collective failure to acknowledge this history has created a contemporary political culture that doesn't adequately value the victimization of people of color today."
This new research builds upon EJI’s 2015 report, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, which documented more than 4000 racial terror lynchings in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950. EJI recently launched an interactive website in collaboration with Google.org, which features the full lynching report in both digital and downloadable formats, an interactive map of lynching locations throughout the country, audio stories and videos, and a high school lesson plan.
EJI is working to advance a national conversation about the legacy of racial terror in America. Next year, EJI will open the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a national monument commemorating the lives of African American lynching victims, and a new museum, From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, which will explore America’s legacy of slavery, racial terror, segregation, and mass incarceration.