The National Underground Railway Freedom Center’s Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America opened last week and is up through May 31.
Convinced that no good can come of ignoring or forgetting this shameful aspect of American history — some 5,000 murderous, illegal lynchings, mostly of African-American males, from 1882 to 1968 — the Center has taken a traveling show that sometimes elicited anger in earlier venues and hopes to make it a means of furthering understanding rather than undermining it.
What are these photographs? They are mostly postcards, amazingly, sent through the mail like any other correspondence despite their brutal pictures of dead victims of mob justice.
There are also snapshot photographs. The bodies hang from trees, from bridges, heads bent tellingly to one side, often with a white mob looking on. The tone of their captions is sometimes jocular, sometimes vindictive — they reveal pride in the lynching.
How could this have happened? Indeed that is the central question the exhibition raises and the one that must be answered.
Read Jane Durrell's full feature and get event details here.