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Lynching in the U.S.: Rhetoric and Representation, 1885-2015

In this class, we will develop a deeper understanding of the rhetorical and representational practices associated with the violent murders of African American citizens at the hands of mob violence, starting in the years following the Reconstruction period and until the 1940’s. We will begin by examining rhetorical strategies writers employed to influence public opinion on lynching and then turn to a variety of media to understand how acts of representation work to mediate public understanding of lynching and its costs.

Throughout the week, we will consider the role that memories of cultural trauma play and how a more open discussion of lynching might create a more honest form of cross-racial dialogue and national healing. There, we will find parallels between the economic hardships imposed on black communities during the Lynching Era and this present moment where municipalities like Ferguson create and sustain parasitic relationships with black communities that are underwritten by police violence.

Professor:
Herman Beavers [click to view bio]
Professor of English and Africana Studies