2,000 Black People Were Lynched During the Reconstruction Era, New Report Finds

Around 2,000 black people were lynched over the 12-year-period following the end of the Civil War as people refused to accept their new-found freedoms and attempted to "defend white supremacy," according to a report.

The Equal Justice Initiative said that thousands of black people continued to be the targets of racially motivated attacks and killings between 1865 and 1876—a period known as the Reconstruction Era, when the country attempted to address the issues surrounding the slave trade the nation's laws and constitution were rewritten.

The "staggering figure" follows on from a previous report by the EJI, published in 2015, which found more than 4,400 victims documented of lynching between 1877 to 1950.

The report, "Reconstruction in America," revealed that nearly 2,000 black men, women and children were lynched between 1865 and 1876

Newsweek subscription offers >

The latest report now means there are at least 6,400 cases of lynching in the U.S. after the end of the Civil war. However, the true figure looks certain to be much higher when taking into account thousands of additional victims who may be documented in other records or who are "undocumented and forever lost to history."

The report states: "Tragically, the rate of unknown lynchings of Black people during Reconstruction is also almost certainly dramatically higher than the thousands of unknown lynchings that took place between 1877 and 1950 for which no documentation can be found.

"The retaliatory killings of Black people by white Southerners immediately following the Civil War alone likely number in the thousands."

The report lists 34 examples of mass lynchings that took place during the Reconstruction period.

Newsweek subscription offers >

"These acts were not committed only by marginalized extremists," the report says.

"Countless white people participated in attacking and killing Black people to defend white supremacy."

In Mobile County, Alabama, in 1865, the report found that gangs of white people killed an estimated 138 black people over the course of several months.

Around 200 black people were also killed over the course of several days in Opelousas, Louisiana, in September 1868, in an attempt to suppress the black vote.

In Caddo Parish, Louisiana, in October 1868, at least 53 black people were killed by white mobs attempting to suppress black voter turnout.

Further killing by white people attempting to stop black people from voting also occurred in Louisiana in Algiers and St. Bernard Parish the same month, resulting in at least 42 dead.

Other examples of mass lynchings include mobs of people hanging black people without trial in Trenton, Tennessee, and Henderson, Texas, as well as several attacks by the Ku Klux Klan down the years which resulted in the deaths of hundreds.

"As white communities grew increasingly bold and confident in their ability to kill Black people with impunity, the violence expanded beyond organized groups like the Klan," the report adds.

"In the first years after Emancipation, Black people who bravely seized new opportunities to exercise political power, pursue education, and resist economic exploitation risked their own lives to chart a new path.

"Racial violence killed many and terrorized many more with the knowledge that their long-sought and hard-won freedom now placed them in danger."

The release of the report coincides with a renewal of protests and debates over racial injustice in the country in the wake of the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd.

The fallout has also seen the removal or vandalism of several statues commemorating Confederate leaders.

Speaking to The Guardian, Bryan Stevenson, EJI's executive director, said the 12 years following the Civil War is one of the few times in U.S. history where there was an "almost complete concession to lawlessness and an abandonment of constitutional protections."

He added: "That explains much of the moment we are now in—until there is a deep reckoning of this history of violence and racial oppression we cannot repair and remedy, and without that we are not going to be able to create the society we want."

lynch
More than 3,000 African-American protesters marched on the streets of Washington carrying signs urging control and halting of the lynching of black people in June, 1922. Federal intervention was sought so that the series of hangings and killings of blacks by whites might be curbed. Bettmann / Contributor/Getty
2,000 Black People Were Lynched During the Reconstruction Era, New Report Finds | U.S.