Deep Rhetoric: Philosophy, Reason, Violence, Justice, Wisdom

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The response was immediate. Enforcement Act trials in most of the Southern states had been halted pending the Supreme Court appeal. Racial terrorism and intimidation of African Americans became characteristic of Southern democracy during the s and prompted little action from federal observers. A proposal in Congress to discipline Georgia for the violence and corruption surrounding its election was defeated by a five-day filibuster in the Senate, and Northern support for federal intervention on behalf of black people living in the South diminished considerably.

I think that I am doing my duty to my constituents and my duty to my country when I vote against any such proposition Speaker, I propose, as a man raised as a slave, my mother a slave before me, and my ancestry slaves as far back as I can trace them If this House removes the disabilities of disloyal men by modifying the test-oath, I venture to prophesy you will again have trouble from the very same men who gave you trouble before.

James Crosswhite

Kemper was inaugurated as governor in and, that same year, delivered an address to the General Assembly outlining the racial regime he intended to create:. Let it be understood of all, that any organized attempt on the part of the weaker and relatively diminishing race to dominate the domestic governments, is the wildest chimera of political insanity.

Let each race settle down in final resignation to the lot to which the logic of events has inexorably consigned it. Still we should be just as well off without them were the negro race less indolent and unreliable. They are constitutionally an idle, thriftless race, always depending on the whites for everything, and it will take a century of education before they can be brought up to the standard that will make them in any degree useful members of the community. Things were not much better outside the South, as the Supreme Court continued to chip away at federal Reconstruction laws.

Executive action also waned during this time, as Southern racial violence became an increasingly divisive issue and politically-weakened President Grant became more reluctant to intervene. Without federal protection, black voters were targeted in brutal attacks on election day in Mississippi and throughout the South. The presidential election of resulted in a deadlock between Republican Rutherford B.

Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Henceforth, the nation, as a nation, will have nothing more to do with him. The presence of federal troops in the South during the Reconstruction era acted as a penetrable dam holding back some of the violence, political suppression, and racist rhetoric employed by those intent on restoring white supremacist rule. Their premature withdrawal unleashed a pent-up wave of violence that easily topped the few remaining protective structures and left black people cemented in an inferior economic, social, and political position.

Southern state governments set to work altering their constitutions to disenfranchise black citizens and codify segregation. At the Mississippi Constitutional Convention, where all but one of the delegates were white, the intentional purging of black people from the roll of eligible voters was a top priority.

Within the field of permissible action under the limitations imposed by the federal constitution, the convention swept the circle of expedients to obstruct the exercise of the franchise by the negro race. By reason of its previous condition of servitude and dependence, this race had acquired or accentuated certain peculiarities of habit, of temperament, and of character, which clearly distinguished it as a race from that of the whites,—a patient, docile people, but careless, landless, and migratory within narrow limits, without forethought, and its criminal members given rather to furtive offenses than to the robust crimes of the whites.

Restrained by the federal constitution from discriminating against the negro race, the convention discriminated against its characteristics and the offenses to which its weaker members were prone. Alabama rewrote its constitution in John B.

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The South created a system of state and local laws and practices that constituted a pervasive and deep-rooted racial caste system. Convict leasing, the practice of selling the labor of state and local prisoners to private interests for state profit, utilized the criminal justice system to effectuate the economic exploitation and political disempowerment of black people. In turn, the most common fate facing black convicts was to be sold into forced labor for the profit of the state.

Beginning as early as in states like Texas, Mississippi, and Georgia, convict leasing spread throughout the Southern states and continued through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


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An report by the Hinds County, Mississippi grand jury recorded that, six months after convicts were leased to a man named McDonald, twenty were dead, nineteen had escaped, and twenty-three had been returned to the penitentiary disabled, ill, and near death. It legitimized excessive punishment and abuse of African Americans and terrorized people of color.

Jim Crow laws proscribed the lives and possibilities of black people throughout the South.

Plato on Rhetoric and Poetry

In March , a white woman and black man were arrested in Atlanta, Georgia, after two police officers claimed to have seen them talking and walking together on the street. He then said he would have to arrest me, and I was ridden to police barracks in a patrol wagon. It is the first ride I have ever taken of the kind, and I have been humiliated and disgraced. But somebody will suffer for this before it is done with. Racial segregation often translated to the total exclusion of black people from public facilities, institutions, and opportunities.

How the Left Turned Words Into ‘Violence,’ and Violence Into ‘Justice’

This separation plainly disadvantaged black people and served as a constant symbol of their inferior position in Southern society. The laws made no exception based on class or education; indeed, the laws functioned on one level to remind African Americans that no matter how educated, wealthy, or respectable they might be, it did nothing to entitle them to equal treatment with the poorest and most degraded whites.

What the white South insisted upon was not so much separation of the races as subordination, a system of controls in which whites prescribed the rules of racial conduct and contact and meted out the punishments. Though legally emancipated from slavery and endowed with constitutional rights to participate in society as full citizens, black people soon learned that those rights were unenforceable in a white-controlled political system hostile to their exercise.

This message was communicated through an intricate and complex system of racial subordination built after the Civil War to maintain and reinforce white supremacy in a world without chattel slavery. Constructed of law and custom, force and fear, disenfrachisement, convict leasing, and Jim Crow segregation, the system was fragile and fiercely guarded.

Over the century that this racial caste system reigned, perceived violations of the racial order were met with brutal violence targeted at black Americans—and lynching was the weapon of choice. Beginning in the s and continuing in the decades following the Civil War, lynching became more synonymous with hanging.

The first broadly publicized incident of lethal lynching occurred in Madison County, Mississippi, in , after a fabricated story of a planned slave uprising sparked local panic and resulted in the hangings of two white men and several enslaved black people. Even as lynchings became more frequently deadly, they differed greatly by region. An individual subject to a frontier lynching typically was accused of a crime such as murder or robbery, given some form of process and trial, and hanged without any additional torture or foul play.

Most were lynched under suspicion of conspiring to mount a slave uprising—a growing but largely unsubstantiated fear among whites in slaveholding states. Southern lynching took on an even more racialized character after the Civil War.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Southern lynching had become a tool of racial control that terrorized and targeted African Americans. The ratio of black lynching victims to white lynching victims was 4 to 1 from to ; increased to more than 6 to 1 between and ; and soared to more than 17 to 1 after The character of the violence also changed as gruesome public spectacle lynchings became much more common.

Indeed, public spectacle lynchings drew from and perpetuated the belief that Africans were subhuman—a myth that had been used to justify centuries of enslavement, and now fueled and purportedly justified terrorism aimed at newly-emancipated African American communities. Among Southern people, the conviction is general that terror is the only restraining influence that can be brought to bear upon vicious Negroes. Southern states were equipped with readily-available, fully-functioning criminal justice systems eager to punish African American defendants with hefty fines, imprisonment, terms of forced labor for state profit, and legal execution.

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Plato on Rhetoric and Poetry (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Many lynching victims were not accused of any criminal act, and lynch mobs regularly displayed complete disregard for the legal system. In , Edward Johnson, a black man, was convicted of raping a white woman and sentenced to death by an all-white jury in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His attorneys appealed the case and won a rare stay of execution from the United States Supreme Court.

In response, a white mob seized Mr. Johnson from the jail, which had been vacated by the sheriff and his staff, dragged him through the streets, hanged him from the second span of the Walnut Street Bridge, and shot him hundreds of times. Come get your nigger now. Johnson used his last words to declare his innocence. Nearly a century later, he was cleared of the rape. African Americans were lynched under varied pretenses. Today, lynching is most commonly remembered as a punishment exacted by white mobs upon black men accused of sexually assaulting white women.

Hundreds more black people were lynched based on accusations of far less serious crimes like arson, robbery, non-sexual assault, and vagrancy, many of which were not punishable by death if convicted in a court of law. African Americans frequently were lynched for non-criminal violations of social customs or racial expectations, such as speaking to white people with less respect or formality than observers believed was due.

Finally, many African Americans were lynched not because they committed a crime or social infraction, and not even because they were accused of doing so, but simply because they were black and present when the preferred party could not be located. He was arrested and about to be lynched by a mob in Smith County, Tennessee, when at the last moment he broke free and escaped. Thwarted in their attempt to kill the suspect, the mob turned its attention to his sister and lynched Ms.

The thousands of African Americans lynched between and differed in many respects, but in most cases, the circumstances of their murders can be categorized as one or more of the following: 1 lynchings that resulted from a wildly distorted fear of interracial sex; 2 lynchings in response to casual social transgressions; 3 lynchings based on allegations of serious violent crime; 4 public spectacle lynchings; 5 lynchings that escalated into large-scale violence targeting the entire African American community; and 6 lynchings of sharecroppers, ministers, and community leaders who resisted mistreatment, which were most common between and Nearly 25 percent of the lynchings of African Americans in the South were based on charges of sexual assault.

When black Memphis journalist Ida B. In , in Aberdeen, Mississippi, Keith Bowen allegedly tried to enter a room where three white women were sitting; though no further allegation was made against him, Mr. Narratives of these lynchings reported in the sympathetic white press justified the violence and perpetuated the deadly stereotype of African American men as hypersexual threats to white womanhood.

Lynchings based on minor social transgressions were a tool of racial control designed to enforce social norms and racial hierarchy. Examples are plentiful. Law-abiding African Americans lived at risk of arbitrary and deadly mob violence.

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These lynchings and the threat of falling victim to the mobs who committed them sought to keep the African American community terrorized and in a constant state of fear. Jesse Washington was burned before a crowd of thousands in Waco, Texas, in More than half of the lynching victims EJI documented were killed under accusation of committing murder or rape.

The deep racial hostility that permeated Southern society during this time period often served to focus suspicion on black communities after a crime was discovered, whether evidence supported that suspicion or not. This was especially true in cases of violent crime against white victims. In a strictly maintained racial caste system, the mere suggestion of black-on-white violence could spark outrage, mob violence, and murder before the judicial system could act.

In this society, white lives held heightened value, while the lives of black people held little or none. Of the hundreds of black people lynched under accusation of rape and murder, nearly every one was brutally killed without being legally convicted of any offense. Some lynching victims were demonstrably innocent of the serious crimes alleged.

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After a white woman was raped in Lewiston, North Carolina, in , a black man named Peter Bazemore was accused of the crime and lynched by a mob before an investigation revealed that the real perpetrator had been a white man wearing black makeup. Lynching, a statement of racial terror and white supremacy, was largely reserved for black suspects.


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White people accused of murder or rape during this era were much more likely to be tried, convicted, and punished by the legal system than by a mob. Mitchell, a key witness, was shot in his home by four white men and died; the white defendant was acquitted and released. In , after Luther Holbert allegedly killed a local white landowner, he and a black woman believed to be his wife were captured by a mob and taken to Doddsville, Mississippi, to be lynched before hundreds of white spectators.

Next, their ears were cut off. Holbert was then beaten so severely that his skull was fractured and one of his eyes was left hanging from its socket. The white men, women, and children present watched the horrific murders while enjoying deviled eggs, lemonade, and whiskey in a picnic-like atmosphere. Another public spectacle lynching took place in in Memphis, Tennessee, when a mob of twenty-five men seized Ell Persons from a train that was transporting him to stand trial for rape and murder.

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