The word “lynching” has immediate and graphic connotations for virtually all people who hear and use the word. When Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas claimed he was lynched by a Senate investigating committee, he intentionally and deliberately drew on two key components of the term -- race and punishment – that stemmed from the long and ugly history of lynching in America. Yet if we follow the history of the term itself – which is over two centuries old – we learn that lynching has had several different meanings over time, with murder endorsed by the community as one of its most enduring definitions. Tracing the use and meaning of the word “lynching” from the colonial period to the present, historian Christopher Waldrep reveals that while the notion of lynching as a form of extralegal punishment sanctioned by the community did not alter significantly over time, the meaning of the word itself changed drastically, paralleling changes in how Americans grappled with law enforcement, community, and most importantly, race relations.
'Waldrep's widely researched work provides an excellent overview of a horrendous practice in American society.' - Library Journal
'...an insightful and impressive new study...' - David J. Garrow, Los Angeles Times
'...speak[s] powerfully to a general educated audience, alerting them to the ability of language to manipulate.' - P.F. Field, Choice
'Waldrew has made an important contribution to our understanding of an enduring American dilemma.' - Journal of American History
'Extralegal violence has been a part of American legal history since the inception of the United States. In this sweeping study Christopher Waldrew offers us the first comprehensive examination of Judge Lynch from the American Revolution to modern times.' - Paul A Gilje, University of Oklahoma, USA