Lynching (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
Violent punishment or execution, without due process, for real or alleged crimes.
The concept of taking the law into one's own hands to punish a criminal almost certainly predates recorded history. Lynching (or "lynch law") is usually associated in the United States with punishment directed toward blacks, who made up a highly disproportionate number of its victims. (While the origins of the term "lynch" are somewhat unclear, many sources cite William Lynch, an eighteenth-century plantation owner in Virginia who helped to mete out vigilante justice.)
Lynching acquired its association with violence against blacks early in the nineteenth century. It was used as a punishment against slaves who tried to escape from their owners. Sometimes, whites who openly opposed SLAVERY were the victims of lynch mobs as well. Perhaps not surprisingly, lynching did not become a pervasive practice in the South until after the Civil War. The passage of the FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT to the Constitution granted blacks full rights of citizenship, including the right to DUE PROCESS OF LAW. Southern whites had been humiliated by their loss to the North, and many resented the thought that their former slaves were now on an equal footing with them (relatively speaking). Groups such as the KU KLUX KLAN and the Knights of the White Camelia attracted white...
(The entire section is 1134 words.)
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