All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Andrew Baer

Advisory Committee Members

Harriet Amos-Doss

Pamela Sterne-King

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2020

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

The Evolution of Racism Through the Lens of Lynching Rhetoric and Memory, examines the use of ‘lynching’ in its definition, legislation and politics. Rhetoric has the power to influence and persuade, therefore when public figures manipulate lynching rhetoric, the meaning of lynching becomes distorted. In part, this thesis explores the difficulty of defining lynching. Among others, key players in this process included Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Monroe Work of the Tuskegee Institute, and Jessie Daniel Ames of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL). Their battle to encompass racially violent acts within one definition proved challenging yet was essential in drafting and proposing anti-lynching legislation. In addition, the paper follows the use of lynching rhetoric in legislation beginning with the Dyer Bill in 1912 and concluding with the Emmett Till Bill in 2020. Lynching rhetoric employed by Senators Hatton W. Sumners and Theodore G. Bilbo shows the success of thwarting anti lynching bills. Moreover, lynching rhetoric utilized by these, and other representatives in Congress was employed to shroud underlying racism. Finally, the paper explores lynching rhetoric misconstrued by political figures to defend themselves in areas only tangentially connected to the conventional understanding of the term ‘lynching.’ This chapter begins with evidence of politicians using this rhetoric during the New Deal, and includes Senator Joseph McCarthy, G. Harrold Carswell, U.S. Army General William Westmoreland, Clarence Thomas and Donald J. Trump. Overall, the argument calls to restrict misuse of lynching rhetoric in order to prevent its reinforcement of the imbalance of race and power in the United States. In addition, it means to negate the impression that lynching is only part of the past.

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