When James Byrd Jr. was lynched in Alabama in 1865, it was the second time in his life that the federal government had publicly blamed a criminal.
At the time, the lynching of James Brown, a Black man, in 1963, was considered the first mass lynching.
In his book Black on Black, historian James B. Baughman says that the United States had been a largely white society since Reconstruction.
It had seen a lot of African-Americans, but the racial tensions and violence had largely been contained to white cities.
“In the South,” he writes, “a black man was lynching an African-American man every two weeks.
At first, the public was not quite so willing to accept a lynching for any crime.
They thought lynching a Black person was a way to show the law that there were other ways to deal with African- Americans than with the state.”
And the state responded by putting its own people in the position of deciding what happened to people who were guilty of the same crime.
So the U.S. government put up the image of a benevolent lynch mob, with the federal courts issuing subpoenas and requiring witnesses to testify.
At a time when lynchings were happening every day in the South, the government would have the images of a group of white people lynching African- American people, Baughmann writes.
It was the perfect image for the white public to see.
And by doing so, the image would be an accurate reflection of what lynching was.
But when the images were finally used by the government, they were criticized by some who were trying to change the public’s attitudes toward the crime.
Some of the charges against James Byrd were actually lies.
The story goes that on the day of his death, James Byrd called his mother and told her that his family had been lynched, and that he was going to tell the truth about the lynch.
He was arrested and charged with the lynches, and the indictment included a lie.
Baudrillard argues that the lie was not the first time the U of A had used the images, but that the public response to the lynched Byrd was the most extreme.
The day of the lynchers, James Baughmer was the president of the U, a school of the University of the South.
And he said to me, ‘What’s the matter with you?
You have to say something?
Why aren’t you saying anything?
Why are you just making a political statement?’
‘The whole lynching myth, the whole lynch myth that the government put out and put in the public domain, is an example of an institution in the U that’s always been, has always been a white institution that has always acted in a way that was hostile toward Black people and people of color.
It’s never been a civil rights institution.’
But as soon as James Byrd’s image was used in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, it became a symbol of Blackness, Baudillard says.
The image of the Black man lynched by white authorities became a rallying cry for Black Americans.
The phrase “Bloody Bunch” became a catchphrase, as people came to understand that if you had a black man lynching, you had to lynch him, too.
As Black people, it would be like we were a group that had to be killed, Bongillard explains.
The lynch mobs became the scapegoats of the people.
When people of the color, as Black people or as Black-led groups, protested, the images would be used to justify it.
Bongsillard points to the protests against lynching that happened in South Africa and the U., and points out that the image used by Baughmans government to justify lynching had been used to demonize Black people before.
“The image of black bodies being lynched,” Bongilla says, “was the image that came to be used by whites to justify white supremacy.”
Bongilleras book, Black on White, focuses on the rise of the “bloody Bunnies” in the late ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s, when Baughmads government used images of Black people lynched and the violence that was perpetrated against them.
But the idea of the Bunnys as lynchmen is not as well known in the American public.
Bongilledas book is a work of history that explores how the media played a part in the history of lynch-related imagery.
As Bongills book opens, the United Nations has passed a resolution condemning lynching and calling for the use of “fair and impartial” media coverage.
And then, just as Baughillards book ends, the U S government sends a message to Black people that they need to be