EJI's latest report, Lynching in America: Targeting Black Veterans, is expanding and deepening awareness about our nation's history of racial terror and is framing a national conversation about the legacy of racial injustice and inequality in the United States.
As the New York Times editorial board wrote this weekend, "The time when African-Americans were publicly hanged, burned and dismembered for insisting on their rights or for merely talking back to whites is nearer in history than many Americans understand." EJI's report documents the targeted persecution of black veterans who served during the Civil War through World War II. Former soldiers were targeted for violence because their military experience made them a particular threat to the racial hierarchy.
The timeliness and importance of EJI's report also was observed in The New Yorker, which published a detailed piece about EJI's "eerily relevant" and "unprecedentedly thorough" research on the lynching era in American history. As Peter Baker wrote:
"We do so much in this country to celebrate and honor folks who risk their lives on the battlefield," Stevenson told me recently. "But we don't remember that black veterans were more likely to be attacked for their service than honored for it."
The Atlantic highlighted how the contemporary demographics of American cities stem from racial terror, as lynchings and near-lynchings drove black veterans and their families out of the South as refugees, in stark contrast with the benefits provided to white veterans that led to unprecedented levels of home ownership.
EJI believes these public conversations about racial history and its impact on our country today are urgently needed. Bringing to the forefront little known facts about our relatively recent history can help us understand current events and how to move forward towards a more just and equal society.
As the New York Times editorial concludes:
Understanding the persecution that black veterans suffered from the Civil War period through World War II is crucial to understanding the nightmare of terror that extended to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the racism that pervades the country today. This report is especially relevant given that white supremacist groups with roots in the Jim Crow era have recently come marching out of shadows, emboldened by the poisonous rhetoric deployed in the Trump campaign.