Visual Reading Guide
A guide for teachers and students reading Reconstruction in America.
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EJI’s new report, Reconstruction in America, documents nearly 2,000 more confirmed racial terror lynchings of Black people by white mobs in America than previously detailed.
The report examines the 12 years following the Civil War when lawlessness and violence perpetrated by white leaders created an American future of racial hierarchy, white supremacy, and Jim Crow laws—an era from which our nation has yet to recover.
EJI has now documented nearly 6,500 racial terror lynchings in America between 1865 and 1950. Thousands more Black people have been killed by white mob lynchings whose deaths may never be discovered.
In our 2015 report, Lynching in America, EJI documented 4,500 racial terror lynchings in the period between 1877 and 1950. Our newest report, Reconstruction in America, documents nearly 2,000 additional lynchings between 1865 and 1876, raising the total number of documented lynchings to nearly 6,500.
Thousands more were attacked, sexually assaulted, and terrorized by white mobs and individuals who were shielded from arrest and prosecution.
White perpetrators of lawless violence against formerly enslaved people were almost never held accountable—instead, they were often celebrated. Emboldened Confederate veterans and former enslavers organized a reign of terror that effectively nullified constitutional amendments designed to provide Black people with equal protection and the right to vote.
In a series of devastating opinions, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Congressional efforts to protect formerly enslaved people. The Court ceded control to the same white Southerners who used terror and violence to stop Black political participation, upholding laws and practices that codified racial hierarchy and embracing a new constitutional order defined by “states’ rights.”
Within a decade after the Civil War, Congress began to abandon the promise of assistance to millions of formerly enslaved Black people. Violence, mass lynchings, and lawlessness enabled white Southerners to create a regime of white supremacy and Black disenfranchisement alongside a new economic order that continued to exploit Black labor.
White officials in the North and West similarly rejected racial equality, codified racial discrimination, and occasionally embraced the same tactics of violent control seen in the South.
Equal Justice Initiative, “Reconstruction in America: Racial Violence after the Civil War” (2020).
Our nation’s history has been shaped by a narrative of racial inferiority that defined Black people as less human than white people. Rooted in the need to justify genocide and enslavement, this belief in racial hierarchy survived slavery’s abolition, fueled racial terror lynchings, demanded legally codified segregation, and spawned our mass incarceration crisis. This series follows the myth of racial difference and its legacy from enslavement to mass incarceration.