State Sanctioned

A clearinghouse for information, analysis, and resources related to state sanctioned violence in the United States

History of Police Involvement with Lynching

Short cut to digitized inventory of incidents: by nameby dateby form of collusion

Many Americans associate lynching with “mob violence.” Lynch mobs are frequently depicted as being irrational and crazed, wielding pitchforks and torches, taking the law into their own hands.

What is less known about histories of lynching in the United States, is that the majority of these incidents – according to my research so far, perhaps as many as 75% – were perpetrated with the direct or indirect assistance of law enforcement personnel.

This section of the site offers documentary evidence of police involvement with lynching, gleaned from newspapers, trial transcripts, civil rights organizations and other archival sources.  Also included are a number of interpretative essays, which offer readers a broader context within which to understand these sources.

This site is not intended to provide a comprehensive inventory of all lynchings. Such inventories already exist, and can be found online and in print. Rather, the goal is to highlight how lynching has operated as a form of quasi-legal, state-sanctioned violence, by drawing specific attention to the role played by law enforcement personnel.

Please be advised that the material in this site includes primary sources (newspaper articles, trial transcripts, etc.) containing first-hand accounts of violence, and secondary sources that discuss violent incidents in detail.  There are no photographs of lynchings here but the content is disturbing nonetheless.  If you intend to share this site with students, these resources offer helpful advice from other educators about how to address these issues in the classroom.  If you are viewing this site for your own research or educational purposes, please keep your own self-care in mind.

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