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"Lynching and Leisure": Racial terror as town-square spectacle

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Hood College history professor Dr. Terry Anne Scott's new book explores how White Texans near the turn of the 20th century transformed lynchings from an extralegal strategy of terrorism against Black Americans into popular public exhibitions of racial violence. (book cover image courtesy U. of Arkansas Press)

(This conversation originally aired on April 27, 2022)

Welcome to an archive edition of Midday. We’re going to listen to a conversation Tom had in the spring of 2022 with Dr. Terry Anne Scott, the chair of the History Department at Hood College, and a good friend of the Midday show.

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Dr. Terry Anne Scott is chair of the History Department at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. (courtesy photo)

Dr. Scott has written a book that is as difficult as it is important. It chronicles the evolution of mob violence in Texas at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The NAACP has documented more than 4,700 lynchings across America from the 1880s through the 1960s.

Terry Anne Scott has found evidence, in just the state of Texas, of 469 Black people, as well as 140 white people, 111 Mexicans and at least one Native American who were victims of mob violence in roughly that same time period.

Her book traces how these killings, once furtive, clandestine acts, eventually became popular public spectacles, and she examines what that means for our understanding of the legacy of racial violence and discrimination in America.

A warning: we’ll be talking today about a book that includes graphic descriptions of torture and murder. It is difficult to hear about and to comprehend the cruelty of the White mobs that inflicted painful deaths on so many people. But understanding the depravity of these acts is fundamental to understanding what Black people faced and feared on a daily basis. Dr. Scott’s book is the result of important research that we think is very important to share.

It's called Lynching and Leisure:  Race and the Transformation of Mob Violence in Texas.  It's published by University of Arkansas Press.

Terry Anne Scott joined us on our digital line from Frederick, Maryland.

Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)
Malarie is Midday's Supervisory Producer.
Rob is Midday's senior producer.