Lynching marked the violent outer boundaries of race and class relations in the American South between Reconstruction and the civil rights era. Everyday interactions could easily escalate into mob violence, and did so thousands of times. Bruce Baker examines this important aspect of American history by taking seven lynchings in North Carolina and South Carolina and studying them in detail. He succeeds in getting behind the superficial accounts and explanations provided at the time to explain the deeper causes and wider contexts of these events. Many studies of lynching begin only after Reconstruction had ended and African Americans found themselves with little political power. However, this book provides the most thorough study yet written of the Ku Klux Klan's most violent episode the killing of thirteen black militia members in Union, South Carolina, in 1871 to argue that this act of mob violence set the conditions in important ways for the entire lynching era. Enmities born in Reconstruction lingered afterwards and lay behind an 1887 lynching in York County, South Carolina. As lynching became an unsurprising part of life in the South, African Americans even found that they could use it themselves, in once case to punish a child's killer and in another to settle a church's factional squabbles. In addition, a variety of forces opposing lynching was rising and by the 1930s their efforts would begin to make a difference.

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