A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature
This incisive study takes on one of the grimmest secrets in America's national life—the history of lynching and, more generally, the public punishment of African Americans. Jacqueline Goldsby shows that lynching cannot be explained away as a phenomenon peculiar to the South or as the perverse culmination of racist politics. Rather, lynching—a highly visible form of social violence that has historically been shrouded in secrecy—was in fact a fundamental part of the national consciousness whose cultural logic played a pivotal role in the making of American modernity.
To pursue this argument, Goldsby traces lynching's history by taking up select mob murders and studying them together with key literary works. She focuses on three prominent authors—Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Stephen Crane, and James Weldon Johnson—and shows how their own encounters with lynching influenced their analyses of it. She also examines a recently assembled archive of evidence—lynching photographs—to show how photography structured the nation's perception of lynching violence before World War I. Finally, Goldsby considers the way lynching persisted into the twentieth century, discussing the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955 and the ballad-elegies of Gwendolyn Brooks to which his murder gave rise.
An empathic and perceptive work, A Spectacular Secret will make an important contribution to the study of American history and literature.
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African American anti-lynching archive Autobiography camera chap chapter Charles’s Chicago color corporate-monopoly critics critique Crusade death deﬁned deﬁnition depictions Emmett Emmett Till event Ex-Colored ﬁction ﬁeld ﬁgure ﬁlm ﬁnal ﬁnd ﬁre ﬁrst ﬁt Gender Gwendolyn Brooks Henry Johnson images James Weldon Johnson journalism June JWJ’s Last Quatrain Lewis’s murder literary Lynch Law lynching murders lynching photographs lynching’s cultural logic lynching’s violence man’s Memphis mob murders mob violence mob’s modern Monster NAACP narrative narrator narrator’s Negro newspapers nineteenth century novel novella pamphlet parody picture poem political Port Jervis postcards published race rape readers Realism Red Record reﬂected reports Robert Lewis S. S. McClure Sam Hose scene signiﬁcance Smith’s social South Southern Horrors speciﬁc Stephen Crane story Till’s town’s Trescott turn University Press victims visual W. E. B. Du Bois Wells’s white supremacy William women writing York