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January 08, 2013

A map of all the lynchings in America, 1900-1961

Lynching Map: Tuskegee Institute's data on lynching from 1900-1931.
This map, compiled using data gathered by the Tuskegee Institute, represents the geographic distribution of lynchings during some of the years when the crime was most widespread in the United States. Tuskegee began keeping lynching records under the direction of Booker T. Washington, who was the institute's founding leader. In 1959, Tuskegee defined its parameters for pronouncing a murder a “lynching”: “There must be legal evidence that a person was killed. That person must have met death illegally. A group of three or more persons must have participated in the killing. The group must have acted under the pretext of service to justice, race or tradition.” In 1900-1931, Georgia led the lynching tally, with Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, and Arkansas rounding out the top seven worst offenders. These numbers can seem antiseptic. Upon the release of the Tuskegee Report in 1916, the Cleveland Plain Dealer sought to put a face to the statistics by describing the relatively minor crimes that provoked some of the year's lynchings (while noting that at least four of the people killed were later proved innocent): One was charged with being accessory to burning a barn. One was accused to [sic] stealing cotton. A family of four, including two daughters, was slaughtered for clubbing an officer. Three were lynched for poisoning mules, and two for stealing hogs. Two were strung up for furnishing ammunition to a man who was resisting arrest. Tuskegee compiled statistics on lynchings through 1961.

January 01, 2013

A history of the Second Amendment in two paintings (UPDATED Jan 2, 2012)

The Second Amendment wasn't interpreted to mean everyone had a right to a gun (outside a militia context) until Reconstruction, when freed blacks needed guns to defend themselves from the original KKK. A history of the Second Amendment in two paintings
“The militia men have become klansmen. The uniforms have come off. In the original, very far corner of the screen, right hand of the page, is one black person. Now there are lots of black people. Now there’s a uniformed officer keeping law and order. But as soon as the army goes, these blacks will be vulnerable. They’ll at least need these bayonets in their homes or they’ll be terrorized.” “In a nutshell, almost everything ordinary Americans think they know about the Bill of Rights, including the phrase ‘Bill of Rights,’ comes from the Reconstruction period. Not once did the Founders refer to these early amendments as a bill of rights. We read everything through the prism of the 14th amendment — including the right to bear and keep arms.” “The reconstruction Republicans don’t love local militias. They believe in Grant’s army. So they recast it. It becomes an individual right. The NRA is founded after the Civil War by a group of ex-Union Army officers. Now the motto goes, when guns are outlawed, only klansmen will have guns. Individual black men had to have guns in their homes because they couldn’t count on the local constabulary. It’s in the text of the Freedman’s Bureau Act of 1866 that we actually see the reinterpretation of the original Second Amendment. It becomes about original rights.” “The reconstructionists had had four bloody years trying to suppress bloody coups. So they tried to tame the Second Amendment. We moved from an insurrectionary reading of the amendment to an individual one.”
UPDATE: Quoth dave-o:
The claim "In a nutshell, almost everything ordinary Americans think they know about the Bill of Rights, including the phrase ‘Bill of Rights,’ comes from the Reconstruction period. Not once did the Founders refer to these early amendments as a bill of rights" clanged hen I read it (I taught a few semester of American History back in the day) so I started googling, and confirmed what I recalled: Both "bills of rights" (as a general concept) and our specific federal Bill of Rights were discussed at the Constitutional Convention and by the Founding Fathers in the Federalist Papers:
  • Minutes from the Constitutional Convention (do a quick ctrl-F for "bill of rights")
  • A really conveniently pertinent quote from the Federalist Papers I'm not sure what's going on here, and would hazard that either 1) Klein misheard/misunderstood the guy he was talking to (I note that this is a *really* length quote to jot down verbatim; either Klein was recording, or he simply took notes and had to reconstruct the statements from memory later--as a guy with experience screwing up the later as a writer, I always keep a recorder handy and ask to record anything as soon as it sounds quotable), or 2) the guy Klein was chatting with just got over-expansive in his claim, perhaps because he was speaking off the cuff at the time. To be clear, this has no bearing on the overall arc of the larger claim (briefly: "Our sense of the Second Amendment has, over time, de-emphasized militias in favor of individual protection, because we have a bang-up military to protect us from foreign threats, but individuals have historically been unequally protected under the law")--that seems valid to me and squares with what I've heard/read in the past. But the notion that a "Bill of Rights" is a post-Civil War phrase/concept doesn't seem supported by the facts, and I'd hate to see it become "common knowledge."
  • December 19, 2012

    Westboro Baptist Church: Religion or Business Model?

    A Kansan’s thoughts on the Westboro Baptist Church --...