New Short Animates History of Lynching and Racial Terror in the U.S.

By Sameer Rao Oct 11, 2016

We reported last month on a sobering short film in which artist Molly Crabapple animated Shawn "Jay Z" Carter’s breakdown of the War on Drugs. A new short from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) uses a similar format and Crabapple’s drawings to similarly illustrate another unchecked aspect of our nation’s history: lynchings. 

Narrated by EJI’s founder, lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson, "Terror Lynching in America" chillingly explores the use of terroristic violence to prevent Black people in the South from asserting their rights. "Racial terror lynchings of Black people defined a shameful era in America," says Stevenson over Crabapple’s drawing of a tree, from which Black bodies hang. "These lynchings differed from the hanging of White people where there was no functioning criminal justice system. Racial terror lynchings were directed at all Black people. They enforced compliance with racial hierarchy and White supremacy, and ensured racial segregation and denial of equal rights." 

The short highlights several lynchings, discussing the festive atmosphere present at many lynchings and perpetrators’ collaboration with local officials. Stevenson also talks about EJI’s plans for a memorial and museum dedicated to lynching victims in Montgomery, Alabama—part of its boarder work to catalogue lynchings and compel discussion around their impact on Black migration and contemporary racial justice.

"Contemporary issues like police violence, excessive punishment in the criminal justice system and even harsh and punitive treatment of children of color in schools, and on streets, cannot be understood without a deeper examination into our history of racial violence," Stevenson says in the video.

Watch the full short above, then let us know what you think in the comments.