By: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Date: June 1922
Source: NAACP Anti-Lynching Papers, Anti-Lynching Publicity Program. Available online at (accessed January 28, 2003).
About the Organization: On President Abraham Lincoln's birthdate in 1909, Ida Wells and W.E.B. DuBois helped organized the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in response to the lynchings of African Americans. In 1919, the organization published Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States: 1889–1919 to call attention to the issue. In 1922, it supported federal legislation prohibiting lynchings.
The term lynch originated during the American Revolution. Amid the fighting and subsequent breakdown in civil authority, Colonel Charles Lynch, a prosperous Virginian plantation owner, established a "court" in his front yard and punished pro-British colonials, usually by beating them. As the American people migrated westward across the Allegheny Mountains in the postwar years, lynching was associated with vigilantism, in which citizens, assuming the role of judge, jury, and executioner, swiftly disciplined gamblers, cattle rustlers, horse thieves, and other outlaws.
With the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the subsequent passage of discriminatory Jim Crow laws, southern and border states ended black participation in the region's political, legal, and economic affairs. To preserve white supremacy, lynchings became almost common occurrences, particularly in small rural towns. Between 1892, when reliable statistics were first collected, and 1951, a conservative estimate of the total number of lynchings is 4,730, of whom 3,437 were black. Ninety percent of all such lynchings occurred in the Deep South. Two-thirds of the remaining 10 percent occurred in the six border states. Mississippi recorded the most lynchings of African Americans with 539, followed by Georgia with 453, Texas with 411, Louisiana with 279, and Alabama with 251. These brutal acts continued into the twentieth century. In 1919, 79 blacks were lynched, 10 while still wearing their World War I uniforms. Between 1918 and 1927, 416 blacks were lynched, 42 of whom were burned alive.To a large degree, lynchings were less a manner of punishment than an act of intimidation and terror. Southern whites justified lynchings as a necessary measure to protect white women from black rapists. From 1892 to 1951, however, only 25 percent of black lynching victims were even charged with, let alone convicted of, either rape or attempted rape. Undoubtedly, many of the accused were lynched for committing minor offenses or no offenses at all. Moreover, lynchings were not secretive acts of cruelty. To the contrary, by the 1890s, lynchings had evolved into public recreational events. Across the South and border states, small-town newspapers alerted their readers of upcoming lynchings. To increase attendance, railroads sold excursion tickets to would-be visitors. On lynch day, white families and their children assembled to watch the gruesome spectacle. Typically, blacks were first burned, maimed, and dismembered, and then faced the hangman's noose. Afterward, souvenir seekers often sliced off the victims' fingers, toes, ears, and genitalia.
From the 1890s to the 1930s, sixteen southern and border states enacted laws outlawing lynchings, but state and local governments rarely indicted or sentenced lynchers, often because officials were personally sympathetic to the perpetrators. In 1922, the NAACP encouraged Representative Leonidas Dyer, a Missouri Republican, to sponsor antilynching legislation. Dyer had been deeply affected by recent riots in East St. Louis, Illinois, where policeman shot blacks and mobs burned homes occupied by African Americans and threw black children into the fires. The measure passed the House but failed in the Senate. The bill was reintroduced in 1927 and 1940, but each time the Senate failed to pass it. Southern lawmakers argued that the bill was unconstitutional, for it infringed upon states' rights. Even though it did not pass, the Dyer bill was important because it repeatedly called attention to theproblem. Moreover, after it was first introduced in 1922, the number of lynchings began to decline. Between 1922 and 1940, the number of annual lynchings in the United States dropped more than 90 percent, from 57 to 5.
Primary Source: Anti-Lynching Publicity Program
SYNOPSIS: In June 1922, the NAACP launched a sophisticated publicity campaign designed to ensure that the country was informed of the evil of lynchings. The NAACP sought to raise $1 million ($9.5 million in 2001 dollars) to pressure Congress and state legislatures to pass antilynching legislation and to inform the general public through newspaper advertisements. The following are minutes from the meeting of the Executive Committee of the NAACP's Anti-Lynching Crusaders.
The Executive Committee of the Anti-Lynching Crusaders held their Third meeting in New York with 5 states represented. The chairman, Mrs. M. B. Talbert, reported that the movement was splendidly started with over 700 key women in 25 states hard at work. Ultimate success seemed assured.
The Committee made the following statement in answer to many inquiries:
- The movement owes its origin to Mrs. Helen Curtis who was inspired by a public statement of Congressman L. C. Dyer, made at the Annual Conference of the N.A.A.C.P. at Newark, June 1922, in which he said: "If 1,000,000 people were united in the demand from the Senate that the Dyer Bill be passed, there would be no question of its passage." A small committee does not believe in duplicating organizations.
- The committee does not believe in duplicating organizations. We have enough and more organizations already for all the work there is to do. What we need is concentrated effort for specific objects. The committee, therefore, is organized to raise money for one object and then to disband January 1, 1923.
- The one object of the Anti-Lynching Crusaders is to stop lynching and mob violence. There is no division of opinion on the imperative need of this among decent people, black and white.
- The one clear and practical program so far outlined for the accomplishment of this end is that of the N.A.A.C.P. are honestly administered and publicity accounted for.
- The Anti-Lynching Crusaders have, therefore, determined to raise $1,000,000 dollars or as much thereof as is possible by January 1st and to turn this sum over to the Anti-Lynching Fund of the N.A.A.C.P. in trust to be used to pass and enforce the Dyer Anti-Lynching and to put down mob violence.
- Some have doubted if such a sum is necessary. It is; and we have asked the executive office of the N.A.A.C.P. to outline roughly how it could be effectively and economically expended. The statement follows: An Anti-Lynching program demands: 1. Publicity 2. Pressure upon Congress 3. Pressure upon state legislatures 4. Investigation 5. Legal processes.
- Publicity: The Negro has never given his cause proper publicity. We propose, if we can obtain the funds, a campaign of newspaper publicity patterned after the Red Cross and Child Welfare campaigns. A campaign where full page statements of the facts concerning lynching shall appear in every influential daily paper throughout the United States, and that this shall be repeated two, three or more times until not a single person who reads the daily papers shall be ignorant of the fact that we are the only country that burns human beings at the stake, that 3,436 people have been lynched, from 1888 to January 1, 1922 and that rape is not the primary cause of lynching. Such a campaign could be started for $10,000 and would, to be complete, cost $1,000,000.
- Pressure upon Congress: The country must be aroused by letters, telegrams and articles to pour in upon the Senate a stream of requests for immediate action. Such a campaign throughout the United States cannot be completely inaugurated for less than $25,000.
- Pressure upon State Legislatures: Our efforts to strengthen state laws must not for a moment lag. Three or four states have adecuate anti-lynching laws. Campaigns must be inaugurated to secure the passage of such laws in other states. This should cost from $10,000 to $100,000. Moreover, if the Dyer Bill fails of passage before March, the present bill must be reintroduced in the next Congress. If the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill is passed, the campaign against lynching, mob violence and legal defense has just begun and we must immediately be ready for two things:
- Investigation of every case of lynching and mob violence which occurs. These investigations must be far more th[o]rough than in the past for on them we must be able to build court cases with facts and witnesses. This will mean the use of detective agencies, local investigators, documentary research, etc. It is safe to say that in the next few years from $50,000 to $250,000 could be wisely and economically spent on such investigations.
- Legal processes: Finally, there are the actual law cases. The Federal Government will probably attend to the actual prosecutions but we must stand ready to help in the preparation of the cases, the gathering of witnesses, and the stimulation of the interest of public minds. From $100,000 to $250,000 is a small estimate of the cost of preparing such cases. This means that not less than $100,000 ought to be available this moment for the anti-lynching campaign and that it will take at least $1,000,000 to stop lynching and mob violence in United States and provide legal defense. These figures may seem large. They are not large. The difficulty with us is that our ideas of the cost of emancipation have always been too small.
- G. The Executive Committee of the Anti-Lynching Crusaders accepts this program and will seek earnestly to raise the necessary funds. In the raising of these funds, no salaries are being paid, and no commissions of any sort. The work of the Crusaders, both officers and others, is entirely voluntary and uncompensated in any way. Only actual expenses are being met and these are being met by funds raised outside of money contributed to the anti-lynching fund is to be held in trust by the Guaranty Trust Company of New York City to be turned over as directed.
Mrs. Grace Nail Johnson
Mrs. Alice Dunbar Nelson
Mrs. Lillian Alexander
Mrs. Mary B. Talbert
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