Report: 'Terror lynchings' claimed nearly 600 Georgia victims

The Equal Justice Initiative has released a compilation of "3,959 victims of 'racial terror lynchings' in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950," including 700 new names, and whose deaths are almost all unmarked.

Five hundred and eighty six of those victims were in Georgia, according to the report. And two Georgia counties -- Early and Brooks -- were among the 25 counties with the most victims during this time period.

The EJI said it drew on four years of research and told the Times it visited more than 160 sites; its report distinguishes "racial terror lynchings," which were "carried out with impunity," from hangings and mob violence, as well as those acts which were later prosecuted. 

“Many of these lynchings were not executing people for crimes but executing people for violating the racial hierarchy,” EJI founder Bryan Stevenson told the Times.

This follows as part of a larger EJI project of historical reclamation, which includes marking the sites of slave markets in Montgomery, Ala., according to the Times. The EJI next plans to "erect markers and memorials" at select lynching sites.

Wrote the Times' Campbell Robertson: "The process is intended...to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way." 

Experts told the Times that the discovery and addition of several hundred new victims may amount to semantics -- what is considered a  "lynching" versus other racial violence. 

The Times highlighted one example of the thousands of unmarked instances of violence, when in 1922 three black men ("two of them almost certainly innocent") in Kirvin, Texas, were castrated, stabbed, beaten and then "set afire" after being tied down. Hundreds of people watched.

There had previously been a few historical markers for such violence across the South, according to the Times. But in several cities (such as Newnan), their erection was met with "local resistance."

“If you’re trying to make a point that the amount of racial violence is underestimated, well then, there’s no doubt about it,” E. M. Beck, a professor at the University of Georgia, told the Times. “What people don’t realize here is just how many there were, and how close. Places they drive by every day.”

Last year, the AJC's Christian Boone documented the years-long search for answers in a 1946 lynching of four people in Walton County. One of the victims had just been released on bond in the stabbing of a white farmer; the group included one veteran and two women, one of them pregnant. They were tied up and then shot more than 60 times.

The so-called "Moore's Ford lynchings" brought "unprecedented condemnation to the mob justice that had terrorized Southern blacks for generations," Boone wrote.

A subsequent FBI investigation was "stymied" by the white community's insularity, and the black community's fear. State Rep. Tyrone Brooks has been a major player in this quest and this week announced that he will move to Monroe to better continue the investigation.

As a supplement to its story this week, the Times analyzed the EJI data and produced an interactive map, noting the 10 cities which saw the most violence (none in Georgia) and documenting the number of lynchings through the years.

The intro echoes EJI, which argues that such violence was a tool of terrorism masquerading as justice: "The alleged offenses that prompted the lynchings included political activism and testifying in court."

Related: Moore's Ford Lynching has an historic marker in Walton County

» Read more about Moore's Ford case and the history of lynching from the New Georgia Encyclopedia. The story of the Moore's Ford case is also captured in this photo gallery on myAJC.com

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