Why did the South experience an epidemic of lynchings and violence in the late nineteenth century?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Violence perpetrated against African- Americans in the form of lynchings, for example, were done as an attempt to reassert power on the part of White Southerners in a post- Civil War world.  The Reconstruction Era was one in which Southern power, as compared to what was present before the Civil War, was little.  White men, in particular, who had untold amounts of power prior to the war found the post- war life adjustment difficult because of the lack of power.  In addition to this, the perception that lawlessness in the form of targeting individuals believed to be most responsible for this became a type of justification to target African- Americans.  The epidemics of lynchings became a way for individuals and groups such as the Klan to assert authority and provide some level of power in a setting where there was not much of it.  The Southern states experienced a rise of lynchings and violence perpetrated against African- Americans in large part as a way to demonstrate some level of power and authority over a group that had been given legal rights, but realized the social equality was still far away from achievement.

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