Associate 2010-11

Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua


Beyond the Rape: Black Resistance to Lynching, 1867-1930

Professor Cha-Jua has identified five deficiencies in current studies of the lynching of African Americans: a truncated timeframe; misplaced emphasis on the rape of white women; depersonalization of the lynching victims; neglect of the forms of Black resistance; and marginalization of Black women’s roles. He plans to correct these deficiencies by documenting the vibrancy and complexity of African-American agency and resistance to lynching between 1867 and 1930.

He is assembling an inventory of more than 600 newspaper accounts of lynching and cross-referencing his entries with those of the Historical American Lynching Project. Additionally, Professor Cha-Jua is coding his entries with personal information about the lynching’s victim and accuser and details of the lynching itself (e.g., date, location, size and leadership of the lynching mob). Another area of coding captures the Black communities’ continuum of resistance, which included flight, self-defense, protest, collective armed defense, and exodus of the Black community.

During his Center appointment Professor Cha-Jua will write two chapters of his planned book. The first reconstructs the lives of several lynching victims, humanizing and locating them in social networks. This is important, because family and friends organized most resistance actions. The second provides a period and regional breakdown of Black lynchings across the entire United States and introduces eight to ten case studies showing various tactics of resistance. By recovering the multiple ways in which Blacks resisted lynching, this chapter refutes traditional notions of passivity and suggests that Black communities had the ability to defy white authority.