Written on South African Women Oppression

Exclusively available on PapersOwl
Updated: Mar 28, 2022
Cite this
Date added
Pages:  6
Words:  1886
Order Original Essay

How it works

In 1939 Billie Holiday performed “Strange Fruit”, a poem written by Abel Meeropol, to showcase the horror of lynching through the Jim Crow South (Margolick 1). With jarring lyrics of “Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees”, the performance told an honest truth about the quality of life for African Americans, and had a haunting relevance that still serves as an artistic motif of the violence inspired by political attitudes towards African Americans from the Reconstruction era (Margolick 1).

Need a custom essay on the same topic?
Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay!
Order now

The abolition of slavery had destroyed the economic security of the south, and had sparked a reshaping political attitude towards African Americans.

White southerners were no longer concerned about maintaining the free labor of slaves through brutality, but rather how to keep the racial hierarchical structure maintained through similar force. With the rise of the Klu Klux Klan in the south, the era of lynching was conceived. Lynching enforced the same fear and brutality produced through slavery, and allowed for the racial hierarchy of America to remain in place. Although the practice eventually ended throughout the mid to late twentieth century, the rationale behind the practice and elements of brutality were still held in both extralegal and legal spheres.

The term “legal lynching” refers to the trials and execution sentences brought against African Americans from Reconstruction and through the mid-twentieth century. Although oxymoronic in its’ readability, the term forces us to juxtapose “legal lynching” with traditional lynching in order to fully understand this period in American history. Considering that lynching was a form of vigilante justice, placing the term “legal” in front of it can be contradictory, yet revelatory to the societal framework that in which African Americans were subordinate. As controversial as it sounds, an analysis of the case that inspired the term, The Scottsboro Boys case, can confirm the plausibility of lynching through the Law. By analyzing the societal fabric of southern America at the time, one can see how legal and traditional lynching are more interrelated rather than two separate concepts, as they reveal common theme of deep-rooted racial bias as a primary factor in legal and ethical decision-making.

Traditional Lynching in the American South The practice of lynching African Americans in the south highlights how violence was used as a form of oppression. The foundation of violence within the practice of lynching has inspired many legal scholars to use the term “legal lynching” to describe legal cases that sentenced African Americans to execution. Traditional lynching was a form of vigilante justice by white southerners who felt responsible for punishing African Americans for their crimes. What constituted a crime during this era was not applied uniformly to African Americans and Whites, as the practice of lynching was often a result of actions designated as crimes exclusively for African Americans.

African Americans were subject to lynching for social interactions that today are seen as arbitrary, as well as false assertions made by white women and men. The practice was public, brutal, and meant to instill a constant mood of fear in the African American community (Equal Justice Initiative 9). This intent to instill fear among the African American community explains the purpose of violence within social justice theory. Violence is categorized as one of the “Five Faces of Oppression” and is cited as an instrument of control and subordination (Young 4). The psychological attitudes of Southern Whites during the Reconstruction Era and through the mid-twentieth century provide context for the death sentences for African Americans carried out through both forms of lynching. After the abolition of slavery, southern whites were forced by law to recognize African Americans as human beings, rather than sources of slave labor.

For centuries, African Americans were likened to animals, whose sole purpose was to labor and breed more labor. This dehumanization diminished acknowledgement of emotional and intellectual capacity of African Americans. African Americans were perceived to have a higher pain tolerance than Whites, lower intellectual capacity, and brutish, violent tendencies among other dehumanizing psychological characteristics. As a result, the attitude that African Americans were predisposed to engage in criminal behavior became a norm, and was used to justify extreme violence as punishment. These psychological considerations also allowed for the cultural acceptance of photographs of burned and maimed black bodies being used as post cards (Equal Justice Initiative 1). However, the post-cards of lynching do not only reveal psychological attitudes, but also reveal economic principles behind the practice of lynching.

Lynching was seen as a carnival or fair, where whites would show up in crowds of hundreds to thousands to see African Americans violently humiliated, tortured, and killed (Equal Justice Initiative 12). Games would be played, music would be performed, and food would be served to provide entertainment to the White majority. The large publicity of lynching provided a way in which Southern Whites could stimulate their local economy for a day while also re-enforcing the dehumanization of African Americans. This in turn echoed the principle of slavery, in which violence against slaves ensured obedient labor, and resulted in a thriving Southern economy. Gender and Race Considerations The examination of attitudes among gender and race display the attitude of white purity and truth against the lies and lust of blackness.

Of the large amount of black men that were lynched, the premise of inappropriate sexual actions towards white women was often the justified charge for the lynching (Wells 52). These reasons and accusations of rape, sexual assault, and flirtation by black men against white women created a discriminatory intersectionality between race and gender. Black men were seen as monsters who were a threat to the purity and honor of white women that must be controlled or exterminated in so cases through lynching (Wells 53). This perception conceived roles of credibility in American society. The white woman was always truthful and pure, the black man a callous beast filled with lies that should be held in constant contempt and caution by society (Wells 52). With these perceptions established, a historical pattern was created, and in turn led to the adoption of legal lynching.

Legal Lynching and the Scottsboro Boys: Gender and race considerations among black men and white women majorly influenced the legal bias that allowed for legal lynching. The Scottsboro Boys trial is a premier example of this terminology, and also showcases the role of race and gender in America. The case of nine boys accused of rape by two white woman showcased America’s belief of the criminality of black men and their lust for white women. Even with a lack of evidence, the men were convicted of rape and sentenced to death penalties or lifetime prison sentences (Bellamy 27). Through many trials and an eventual appeal to the Supreme Court, the men were exonerated. Yet what occurred during these pre-supreme court trials solidified racial and gender perceptions in America.

The two white women who both accused the boys of rape had conflicting accounts and numerous inconsistencies (Bellamy 28). Despite the obvious inconsistencies, the court still found them credible and sentenced the boys. This case is referred to as a legal lynching as the credibility of claims presented although false, were seen as true, and resulted in the legal death of the boys. Just as a southern neighborhood would hear about a black man raping a white woman and lynch him, the court followed the same logic and punishment through legal procedure. Drawing Parallels and Distinguishing Differences Although the logic behind legal lynching is the same as traditional lynching, one could argue that the brutality differed but the outcome remained the same.

A legal trial is not comparable to a carnival lynching. Although both are public, the defendants are not maimed, tortured, or burned at the stake. However, their credibility and humanity is undermined, and the source of death is welcomed by the electric chair. Longevity is also a factor in comparing the forms of lynching. Traditional lynching can be viewed as quick affairs compared to legal trials. There was an accusation, the public would detain the accused, and the lynching was planned and quickly executed. However, legal lynching created an ongoing process of suffering. In which trial after trial accompanied by years of horrible prison conditions, created more complication and delay for punishment or exoneration for African American defendants.

The Scottsboro boys felt this grueling longevity, especially Haywood Patterson, who was never exonerated through the law, but found freedom through escaping prison (Bellamy 34). Legal lynching provided a continuation of suffering and malign- a lifetime lynching. The lynching through legal proceedings lasted a lifetime for African Americans put in situations to the like of the Scottsboro boys, with death being the only reprieve from their suffering under the law. During the reconstruction era, extralegal violence set the tone for legal violence. It was the backdrop and the looming cloud over the courtroom in cases that stemmed from racial tension. This violence originally stemmed from the south scrambling over the lost economic capital that slavery provided.

Wealthy white farmers lost immense profit from slavery, while poor whites saw the newly freed African Americans as a source of competition in an already difficult economy. This circumstance created a political atmosphere in the south to preserve the days of slavery, and keep blacks subordinated under the white supremacist paradigm (Equal Justice Initiative 9). The Ku Klux Klan was conceived out of this pressure and worry, and proved to be a dominating force of oppression to the African American community. What caused this politicizing of African American subordination was the continuing of psychological attitudes towards African Americans and slavery. During the antebellum period, obedient slaves were seen as trustworthy and non-threatening, whereas slaves who were prone to run away were categorized as dangerous.

The abolition of slavery caused white southerners to view all African Americans as runaway slaves. Once freed and created equal through the law, every black citizen was a threat that needed to be subdued. As a result, extralegal and legal violence was welcomed in order to try to preserve the antebellum status quo. Conclusion The term “legal lynching” captures a valid theory about race and the courts while drawing a significant parallel to traditional lynching. During the reconstruction era and mid-twentieth century, the law served as a secondary avenue of oppression for African Americans.

Through the case of the Scottsboro Boys, one can see how race and gender intersected to criminalize African American men while purifying the image of white women. Psychological perceptions of blacks during slavery translated to fear and concern in politics, which gave rise to lynching and the inception of organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. The initial inception of extralegal violence that would soon transcend into legal violence was influenced by the southern angst of a broken economy in which the civil war caused.

The loss of human capital that slavery brought to the south caused economic despair and unfavorable attitudes by all economic classes of whites as their financial stability was impacted by the abolition of slavery. All factors considered, lynching and “legal lynching” showcase how many societal factors contributed toward the oppression of African Americans. These attitudes that stemmed from political and economic circumstances post-civil war created the avenues of extralegal violence and legal violence as a source of control and subordination against newly freed blacks that carried into the 19th century.

The deadline is too short to read someone else's essay
Hire a verified expert to write you a 100% Plagiarism-Free paper

Cite this page

Written On South African Women Oppression. (2022, Feb 07). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/written-on-south-african-women-oppression/