The Organization & Structure of the Exhibition through defiant cultural expressions such as the musical forms of blues, jazz, and ragtime or the black protest literature that was focused in the Harlem Renaissance.
The exhibition is intended to be accessible to all visitors who come through the changing gallery doors. It assumes no prior knowledge of lynching or the historical context in which lynching occurred in America. The Freedom Center will not make official statements as to the morality or ethics of the practice of lynching, but there is the expectation that the viewer will see clear messages concerning the illegal, immoral, and unethical nature of these murders. The language of the exhibition will be targeted toward high school and young adult literacy, with the understanding that there will be more resources available in the gift shop and through our bibliography for the more sophisticated viewers.
Is This the End of the Story? In this section, connections are made to contemporary life. The relevance of Jim Crow and the Lynching Era remains strong. Although there are many connections, the following themes will be considered here: Symbols of Hate, Hate Crimes, Living Up to the Dream, and The Black Experience. Remembrance Take a moment to reflect on not only what was seen in the exhibition, but the emotions and memories the exhibition brought out. We encourage you to reflect through a variety of expressions here at the conclusion of the exhibition.
In operating within the parameters of the collection and the research done to date, we have identified five major sub-thematic focus areas with additional ancillary spaces. The National Pastime Historians trace the origins of lynching in America to the Revolutionary War when the punishment to Loyalists and British sympathizers was tarring and feathering, whipping, or hanging. Lynching was not a new phenomenon in the late 1880’s; for decades, it had served as a means of extralegal justice in the South, the Far West, and the Midwest. However, the extent of sadism, torture, and spectacle before death had never before been so extreme. This section introduces the horrors of the Lynching Era. A Festival of Violence African Americans had suffered death at the hands of vigilantes for all of their history in the United States. However, during the Lynching Era, to kill the victim was not enough; the execution became public theater. This section focuses entirely on the spectacle of lynching and the pattern that many lynchings followed. Respite This is a space to reflect on what has been seen so far and what will be seen in the coming sections. Benches, quotes, and reflection questions are placed in this room for a break from the graphic photographs.
Suggested Reading Primary Sources
The Heartland Racism is a very real part of Ohio, the Midwest, and American history. Despite being admitted to the Union as a free state, Ohio did not escape writing racism into its laws, codes, and social practices. Marion, Indiana, produced one of the most famous lynching photographs in American history. This section uses the state of Ohio and Marion, Indiana, as case studies of the Lynching Era. Fighting Injustice For African Americans, Jim Crow was met with resistance and even more determination. This took the form of individual acts of defiance or organized challenges of the system. Additionally, African Americans attacked the status quo
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. 1919. Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1918. Repr., New York: Negro Universities Press. 1969. Patterson, William L., ed. We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government Against the Negro People. New York: International Publishers. 1970. Scroggs, William O. Mob Violence: An Enemy of Both Races. New Orleans: Southern Sociological Congress. 1916. United States. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. Antilynching and Protection of Civil Rights: Hearings before Subcommittee no. 3 of the Committee on the Judiciary, eighty-first Congress, first and second sessions on H.R. 115, H.R. 155, H.R. 365, H.R. 385, H.R. 443, H.R. 788, H.R. 795, H.R. 1351, and H.R. 4683 . Washington, D.C.: Govt. Print. Off. 1950.
Alston, Alex A., and James L. Dickerson. Devil’s Sanctuary: An Eyewitness History of Mississippi Hate Crimes. Chicago: Lawrence Hill. 2009. Apel, Dora and Shawn Michelle Smith. Lynching Photographs. Berkeley: University of California. 2007. Brown, Mary Jane. Eradicating this Evil: Women in the American Anti-Lynching Movement, 18921940. New York: Garland. 2000. Carrigan, William D. The Making of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836-1916. Chicago: University of Illinois. 2004. Gerstenfeld, Phyllis B. Hate Crimes: Causes, Controls, and Controversies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 2004. Gerstenfeld, Phyllis B. and Diana R. Grant, eds. Crimes of Hate: Selected Readings. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 2004. Gonzales-Day, Ken. Lynching in the West: 1850-1935. Durham, NC: Duke University. 2006. Grant, Donald L. The Anti-Lynching Movement: 1883-1932. San Francisco: R and E Research Associates. 1975. Herman, Max Arthur. Fighting in the Streets: Ethnic Succession and Urban Unrest in TwentiethCentury America. New York: Peter Lang. 2005. Royster, Jacqueline Jones, ed. Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900. Boston: Bedford Books. 1997. Streissguth, Tom. Hate Crimes. New York: Facts on File. 2003. Waldrep, Christopher, ed. Lynching in America: A History in Documents. New York: New York University. 2006. Waldrep, Christopher. African Americans Confront Lynching: Strategies of Resistance from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. 2009. Wood, Amy Louise. Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina. 2009. Zangrando, Robert L. The NAACP Crusade against Lynching, 1909-1950. Philadelphia: Temple University. 1980.
Without Sanctuary Lynching Photography in America January 19 - May 31, 2010
“We must remember, because if the world forgets evil
Thank you to our sponsors:
Secondary Sources Allen, James, Hilton Als, Congressman John Lewis, and Leon F. Litwack. Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America. Santa Fe: Twin Palms. 2000.
Thank you to our Community Partners Council: Housing Opportunities Made Equal; Xavier University; Jewish Community Relations Council; Cincinnati Museum Center; MLK Coalition of Cincinnati; Community Healing Circle; Cincinnati Art Museum; BRIDGES for a Just Community; Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless; Council on American-Islamic Relations; Cincinnati Human Relations Commission; Muslim Mothers Against Violence; Boone County Schools; Center for Holocaust and Community Education; League of United Latin American Citizens; Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center; Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library; Northern Kentucky University; Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Cincinnati Enquirer; Equality Cincinnati; Council of Christian Communions of Greater Cincinnati; Greater Cincinnati Advocates for Darfur; Episcopal Church – Cincinnati; Friends of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House Thank you to our Academic Advisory Board: Dr. Thabiti Asukile (University of Cincinnati); Dr. Becky Bailey (Northern Kentucky University); Martha H. Good, Ph.D., J.D. (Miami University); Dr. James H. Madison (Indiana University); Dr. Eric R. Jackson (Northern Kentucky University); Terry Kershaw, Ph.D. (University of Cincinnati); Dr. Tonya M. Matthews, Ph.D. Vice President for Museums (Cincinnati Museum Center); Dr. Matthew Sauer (University of Cincinnati); Dr. Keith P Griffler (Buffalo University); Dr. Michelle Watts (Foundation for Historic Africana, Inc.) Thank you to our Exhibition Advisory Board: Jessica Gogan, Curator Special Projects (Andy Warhol Museum); Joy Bivins, Curator (Chicago History Museum); Patrina Chatman, Curator (Charles H. Wright Museum); Jody Usher, Ph.D. (Emory University); Saudia Muwwakkil, Curator (Martin Luther King Historic Site); Laura Rae Houston, Exhibition Intern (University of Wisconsin)
evil is reborn.” -W.E.B. DuBois
This document provides a description, rationale and outline plan for the exhibition, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, which will be hosted at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center from January 19, 2010, through May 29, 2010. The exhibition will mark the culmination of the collaborative effort of the Freedom Center with its exhibition Senior Partners, Community Partners Council, Academic Advisory Board, and Exhibition Advisory Board.
How did I act when it came time for me to die? This question has been thrown at me countless times. It is impossible to explain the impending crisis of sudden and terrifying death at the hands of people I had grown up to love and respect as friends and neighbors.
In becoming increasingly involved with the subject of lynching, the Freedom Center’s exhibition project team has become increasingly aware of the historical, cultural, and political complexity that surrounded this practice. Likewise, the instinct to relegate the issue of lynching a side note of history has been daunting. To date, we’ve come across the spectrum of initial reactions – from the hope that talking about lynching will inspire us, as a people, to be more compassionate, loving and caring to the fear, disgust, and anger that showing photographs of this kind is voyeuristic and perhaps even a pornographic display of re-victimization. Part of the team’s work has been to sit down with community leaders, students, and scholars to delve into the misperceptions and misinformation within the American culture that bind the idea and memory of lynching. Even with all of the dialogue that has happened and that will happen with the hosting of Without Sanctuary, this is just a beginning to the discussion that needs to happen across the nation about history. This is not African American history or southern history; it is American history. It has been inspiring to witness the growth of scholarship in this area even within the last ten years. It is my deepest hope that this exhibition will continue to influence the next several generations of Americans. With the inauguration of an African American president, many Americans sighed, whether with relief or depression, that we had made possible what was thought an impossibility even a few months before, during the running of the presidential candidates. In 2008, the same year as the presidential election, a recent FBI report stated there were 9,691 victims of hate crimes, with 4,943 of those targeted because of a bias against race, 1,732 targeted because of religion, 1,706 targeted because of sexual orientation, 1,226 targeted because of ethnicity/national origin, and 85 targeted because of disability. In acknowledging statistics like this, in hosting exhibitions like Without Sanctuary, the Freedom Center stands proud in contributing to the national
STRANGE FRUIT By Billie Holiday and Abel Meeropol
“Let’s work together to rescue ourselves and our children...
I remember, I remember, I remember the mobsters breaking in the jail. They surged forward in one great lunge, knocking and tramping the Black prisoners around me. Some of them got their hands on me right away, three on each side, and the merciless beating began. And over and over the thunderous din rose the shout: “Nigger!” “Nigger!” “Nigger!”. Again and again the word rang out until it seemed as if this was the only word in the English language that held any meaning in their lives.
conversation about the past, present, and future of race relations. Essentially, the exhibition and the project that we have created to complement it, will be placed within the historical narrative of lynching. The way in which Cincinnati responds to Without Sanctuary will tell the story of how lynching is understood by our community and may inspire a change in how we relate to each other as Americans. In this way, this exhibition has vast importance beyond its subject matter. Understandably, this exhibition will be under scrutiny by both the public and the media, and it will inevitably be subjected to reactions that have more to do with external factors than with the photographs themselves. There is no judgment, simply an acknowledgement of the complexity of this exhibition that consists of lynching photographs. The tone within this space will likely be solemn with perhaps an air of frustration that justice has largely been unresolved. But in looking back in acknowledgement of our history, in bearing witness to the atrocities that occurred, and in resolving to better protect those without sanctuary today, perhaps we may make a step towards resolution and justice. This exhibition has been the result of careful planning by the Freedom Center staff, with advice from many of the tri-state’s community, students, and scholars. Research has been concluded and interviews completed of the six major host institutions that have shown Without Sanctuary in the past. The Freedom Center is confident, not only in the merit of our project vision, but also in the merit of these lynching photographs – images that stand in their own right as silent memories of America’s complex and convoluted history.
These words were taken from James Cameron’s account in his book, A Time of Terror, in which he describes the experience of his near-lynching and the lynching of two of his friends in Marion, Indiana, in 1930. Although it was rare for someone to escape a lynching, the description of what happened to James Cameron up to the mob’s change of heart was all too often a familiar ritual. Without Sanctuary brings visual clarity to James Cameron’s testimony and the testimonies of those family, friends, and witnesses that ultimately lost individuals to mob justice. The images bring inarguable evidence to the terror that reigned in America from roughly 1882 through 1968. They give the viewer the means to react, to reply, to this history without demanding a pre-specified acceptable response, other than that the expression respects the nature of the space and the memory of those whose lives were taken by mob violence. At other times, we might not be so adamant about encouraging the means and the time spent on reflecting for the viewers of our traveling exhibitions, but in this case the community has already passionately voiced the need to have a way and a time to accord the victims the measure of dignity that they did no receive as their lives were taken. Strong emotions will be evoked during the viewing of these images. We’ve noted the feelings of sobriety, frustration, and helplessness. But, we also acknowledge that there will be expressions of outrage, sorrow, and pain. Wounds that have been ignored or hidden will be exposed. The human mind has a way of protecting itself from such
horrors. As human beings, we often create distance and detachment in order to deny even to ourselves events of unpleasantness. Through our design of Without Sanctuary, we’ve created an atmosphere where our visitors will be encouraged to maintain a mental proximity by seeing the lives of the individuals and not just their violent deaths. With as many of the photographs as we can, we’ve identified the individual, the location, and the context that surrounded the photographed event. In this way, we are seeking to accord them with a well-deserved measure of dignity and respect. The presentation of the images is meant to emphasize the humanity of these individuals, rather than a simple re-ogling of the spectacle of their deaths. The basic intent of the exhibition is to construct a framework where the viewer may react to the images, and then take those reactions and spark a more serious and in-depth understanding of what lynching is and the effect it has had on America’s history, culture, and racial relationships. Whether this spark is privately nurtured or encouraged during a dialogue session or a supplementary program, we wish to encourage conversation and positive action that will be motivated by the viewing of these images. For all of us, regardless of what shade our skin color is, the existence of these images places them in the dominion of American history. This fact not only makes them publicly owned, but historically makes it the responsibility of the museum field to present them and keep them in the conscious of American society. However hurtful or distasteful the existence of these photographs is, they should not be made invisible.
Tuscaloosa, 1833 by Betty Leake This was the way the wind smell: like fresh corn and good, deep black earth. This was the way the sky look: like big, white bales of cotton in the Lord's blue apron. This was what I hear: nothing but the bluebottles buzzing in the corner of the shut glass. This was the way my mouth feel: like a wide, dusty road in the bowels of Alabama. And they took my sweet man to the sycamore.
...from the fate of becoming bystanders in a world without sanctuary.” -Thee Smith
I beg and I beg my God to be merciful and melt the hearts of the mens. But it wasn't up to me…wasn't up to me. This was the way the day go: slow-long and deepdeep painful like a butcher knife in my soul.
Southern trees bear strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Pastoral scene of the gallant south, The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth, Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh, Then the sudden smell of burning flesh. Here is fruit for the crows to pluck, For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop, Here is a strange and bitter crop.