Lynching in American Literature and Journalism consists of twelve essays investigating the history and development of writing about lynching as an American tragedy and the ugliest element of national character. According to the Tuskegee Institute, 4,743 people were lynched between 1882 and 1968 in the United States, including 3,446 African Americans and 1,297 European Americans. More than 73 percent of the lynchings in the Civil War period occurred in the Southern states. The Lynchings increased dramatically in the aftermath of the Reconstruction, after slavery had been abolished and free men gained the right to vote. The peak of lynching occurred in 1882, after Southern white Democrats had regained control of the state legislators. This book is a collection of historical and critical discussions of lynching in America that reflects the shameful, unmoral policies, and explores the topic of lynching within American history, literature, and journalism.
Yoshinobu Hakutani is professor of English emeritus and university distinguished scholar at Kent State University in Ohio.
Chapter One: The ‘Girl-Reporter’ Confronts the Lynch Mob: Miriam Michaelson’s A Yellow Journalist
Chapter Two: Theodore Dreiser’s ‘Nigger Jeff’: The Development of an Aesthetic
Chapter Three: Theodore Dreiser’s ‘Nigger Jeff,’ “Richard Wright’s ‘Big Boy Leaves Home,’ and Lynching
Chapter Four: Lynching as an American Tragedy in Theodore Dreiser’s Literary Works
Chapter Five: Faulkner on Lynching
Neil R. McMillen and Noel Polk
Chapter Six: Lynching in Richard Wright’s ‘Big Boy Leaves Home”
Chapter Seven: “Lynching in Modern American Short Stories and Sexual Crime in Classic Myth”
Chapter Eight: The Southern Ritual of Lynching in Faulkner’s Light in August and Ellison’s Three Days before the Shooting
Chapter Nine: The Electric Execution of Bigger Thomas in Richard Wright’s Native Son
Chapter Ten: Lynching as Surrealism: Leon Forrest’s “The Vision”
Chapter Eleven: “Lynching in African American Poetry
Chapter Twelve: Depictions of Racial Violence in the Work of Paul Laurence Dunbar
About the Contributors
This important and timely collection explores diverse representations of lynching in twentieth-century American literature, including fiction and poetry by Dreiser, Faulkner, Wright, Dunbar, Ellison, Miriam Michelson, Leon Forrest, and others. The distinguished roster of contributors considers how, in different ways, creative writers transcended the limitations of conventional journalism that excluded reports of racial violence. An invaluable contribution to interdisciplinary scholarship in American, African American, and modernist studies.