Economics, Manhood, Sex, and War: Historical Motives for Lynching and Jim Crow in Central Texas (1890-1930)
HIST 501: Historical Methods and Interpretations
July 8, 2018
The lifeless naked body of a black man swinging from a tree rattled with bullets. The man’s hands, feet, and penis cut off and sold as souvenirs. The reality of lynching in central Texas is not a tale of glory, chivalry, or heroism. The story of a lynching in central Texas is gruesome and wrought with the mystery of how and why Christian human beings could desecrate another human in such a manner. Lynching in central Texas was a means to protect white womanhood and oppress the sexual bellicosity of the African American male with little to no attempt at holding the perpetrators liable for unsubstantiated rape allegations. Many of these malefactors used canonical scripture as well as the perception that it was a chivalrous act of southern decency. Many academic questions asked for such a heinous act have intrigued historians. The economic oppression after the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction is a common theme found in scholarly research on the topic of lynching. The oppression of an uncultured and uncivilized race that was not worthy of equal treatment in America was evident. However, this was more of a political push by the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that fed on the fear of the oppressed. If the Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws were merely about economic frustration, then why would the ensuing lynching be so barbaric and so sexually driven. There was far more than anger and hatred drove by unfair reconstruction efforts and economic difficulties. Lynching would happen across the south; however, Texas would be third in the United States in the number of lynchings.[footnoteRef:1] [1: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1918, New York: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1919, 7.]
The Economic Argument
1890 through 1920 is a historical point of reference called the Progressive Era in American history. Before this era was the Gilded Age that described and coined after Mark Twain's book titled The Gilded Age.[footnoteRef:2] An age perforated with corruption at the expense of the American people, rotten inside despite its shiny exterior. The Progressive era is underscored by the progressive changes to ease the plight of the everyday American. Dr. Randolph Campbell is the regents’ professor at the University of North Texas and served as chief historian for the Texas Historical Commission. In his book, Gone To Texas. A History of The Lone Star State, Dr Campbell describes the political progressives as, “Too diverse to follow a single creed or agree on one set of issues, these reformers generally attacked railroad and business monopolies, emphasized the need for social legislation such as child labor laws, and called for the development of greater efficiency...