[Female voice] But I had another couple of things I wanted to
________ we get the lynching. One of the things also that had
to do with this notion of the American dream, ______ which in
the North you had a chance. Does anybody know what got somebody
[Female voice] Gotta be with a white woman.
That's the myth, that's the excuse but that's not the reason,
or the whole one. There actually are not that many lynchings where
someone actually did something to a white woman. The problem tended
to be something, basically that's the excuse, if you want to lynch
that guy you find some kind of sexual offense. But does anybody
know what actually got you lynched?
[Female voice] Being successful, possibly.
That's what got you lynched. There were a lot of things that
could get you lynched. For example, one of the things that we
know is that black men coming into communities where they're
not known and doing something that might be threatening, that
a problem. But being successful was one of the main reasons;
there you do see a pattern, that if you were too successful you
Again, that kind of notion that any way you try to improve yourself
could in fact bounce back the other way. Certainly the most
lynchings are of the people who are successful because those
are the ones that get reported to the newspapers.
And also, I noticed that some of the __________, and he's lynched
really because he's different. He's in a southern town, _____,
because it's not typical of southern culture _______. And this
murder occurs, and how this murder seems to blow up this little
town, this man is accused of being the murderer and then when
the Governor steps in, _____ and running for office he steps in
and finally investigates it he steps in and very quickly finds
out that this man could not have committed this murder. The man
is taken away, told to leave town, just leave. Before he gets
to leave people come out for him out to this country farm and
they string him up. And just using this isolated case _______
New Orleans where these have these _______ trials and they have
these lynchings there specifically because they are successful.
And working on the docks, is specifically a threat, the excuse
is that a police chief was being killed by someone in the Mafia
and then there's mass hysteria in this town in New Orleans and
eleven people are either shot or lynched. But the idea of being
successful, _____________ out of place you said the excuse was
we don't know or he did this so we'll just hang him to make an
example across either racial boundaries as far as to the economics
and just to the balance.
What's interesting is that when you look at lynchings you can
get a sense sometimes of the different reasons these groups
were a threat. So for African Americans in the South for example,
if a man was lazy, good-for-nothing, fulfilled all the stereotypes
he wasn't dangerous. The dangerous ones were the ones not willing
to stay in their place and when you look at lynchings
that's what you see. One way or another whether it's through
violence, whether it's through mobility but some way in which,
especially a male, did something which suggested he wouldn't
his place; that was probably, in most cases, the easiest way
to get lynched.
[Female voice] Also just become someone had a job. If you didn't
feel that they should have this opportunity. Cause this happened
I know in Tennessee, ____ my family. ____ didn't have no opportunity
and this is before Jim Crow too, but actually in most _____racial,
____ ethnic neighborhoods. But a certain group, when Jim Crow
comes into the picture, the law changes, it's going to be stricter
and these people had worked together all along before this law
came into play and all of a sudden the law changes and then the
attitude changes. Well, why does he have this job, why does he
have a home, why does he have land, and then ____ to motivate
_____ against someone being successful, trumped up charges to
move someone out of a job because a white person should have it.
It still keeps coming back to success, education, even though
you were told in society to aspire to be better, even in black
society to aspire to be better because if you did that they would
be more accepting of you and even if you did, you would still
face this threat of being killed. By doing what you were told
to do even in your own society.
Well W.E.B. Du Bois actually had a very interesting comment
about that because one of the criticisms that you see in The
the Urban League things about telling people how to act is The
Defender and the Urban league are very concerned that people
being-part of acting country is being passive. And it's an important
aspect of race relations because they don't want people to do
that in the North.
And but also another thing they keep criticizing is about acting
rude. And, Du Bois makes a comment about how
we are criticizing migrants for being rude because they don't
give up their seats on the streetcar to white women. Well in
South, Du Bois said in the South if a Negro man gives up his
seat to a white woman, except under the rules of Jim crow, the
of Jim Crow were that the whites sit in the front and the blacks
sat in the back and more white people get on, black people gradually
had to give up their seats but if you're sitting in the back
and a white woman gets on you don't get up to give her your
by giving up your seat you are being polite
to a white woman in a way that implies the two of you are equal
as opposed to deferential which would be following the rules
of seating from front to back.
And so Du Bois says that black southerners are taught to not
do certain things whereas if they follow the same behavior in
the North on the streetcars they are going to be called rude.
Whether it's merely speaking to someone, saying "Excuse
it's a whole set of behaviors that in the South is dangerous
and in the North it's considered being polite. And it's a very,
shrewd analysis. Before I had read this particular piece by Du
Bois, it had never occurred to me that there would be very subtle
differences like that where someone is doing something because
all of their life they've done it because it's dangerous to
something else and now they are being told, "If you act
like that, you're rude."