New Data Says: 6,500 Lynchings Occurred During Reconstruction

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Jun 16, 2020

As the nation celebrates the upcoming Juneteenth holiday which recognizes the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans on June 19, 1865, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) released a new report today (June 16) showing that during the Reconstruction era, from 1865 to 1876, nearly 6,500 documented lynchings took place, 2,000 more than previously thought. And EJI researchers believe there are thousands more unknown and undiscovered deaths of Black people who were killed by White mob lynchings.

The new report, “Reconstruction in America,” follows up on EJI’s 2015 “Lynching in America” report, which detailed 4,500 racial terror lynchings of Black people by White mobs between 1877 and 1950. The new report examines the 12 years post-Civil War, “when lawlessness and violence perpetrated by White leaders created an American future of racial hierarchy, White supremacy, and Jim Crow laws—an era from which our nation has yet to recover,” according to the report’s introduction.

“We cannot understand our present moment without recognizing the lasting damage caused by allowing white supremacy and racial hierarchy to prevail during Reconstruction,” said EJI Director Bryan Stevenson. “Our continued silence about the history of racial injustice has fueled many of the current problems surrounding police violence, mass incarceration, racial inequality, and the disparate impact of COVID-19.”

A sweeping and comprehensive report that examines how White people used violence to destroy Black communities—from Philadelphia and New Orleans to Millican, Texas—EJI also produced two video assets to better help contextualize the scale of this violence, with an illustrated component (view below) and a data visualization that shows how the racial violence spread across the country. 

“We need a new era of truth and justice in America,” said Stevenson in the release. “We must acknowledge our long history of racial oppression and then repair the damage this history has created—including the presumption of dangerousness that gets assigned to Black people by police and others.”

To read the complete report and to see the accompanying visual components, visit EJI here.