Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. "Terror lynchings" peaked between 1880 and 1940 and claimed the lives of African American men, women, and children who were forced to endure the fear, humiliation, and barbarity of this widespread phenomenon unaided. This was terrorism.
The Equal Justice Initiative has documented more than 4000 racial terror lynchings in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950, and more than 300 in eight states outside the South. Lynching profoundly impacted race relations in this country and shaped the geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African Americans in ways that are still evident today. Terror lynchings fueled the mass migration of millions of black people from the South into urban ghettos in the North and West throughout the first half of the 20th century. Lynching created a fearful environment in which racial subordination and segregation were maintained with limited resistance for decades. Most critically, lynching reinforced a legacy of racial inequality that has never been adequately addressed in America.
EJI has initiated a campaign to recognize the victims of lynching by collecting soil from lynching sites and creating a memorial that acknowledges the horrors of racial injustice. We aim to transcend time and altered terrain to bear witness to this history and the devastation these murders wrought upon individuals, families, communities, and our nation as a whole. We invite you to join our effort to help this nation confront and recover from tragic histories of racial violence and terrorism and to create an environment where there can truly be equal justice for all.