After more than a century of attempts, lynching is now a federal hate crime in this country.
The stark rise of lynchings in America did not occur prior to the Civil War, as some might think. It actually happened after that time period, particularly following the end of Reconstruction.
Reconstruction is noteworthy because it was a time when America was beginning to live up to its highest ideals — making progress toward true equality and equal opportunity. But it ended abruptly and after relatively short period of time.
“Reconstruction was one of the very hopeful moments in American history when it seemed that we were trying to live up to the idea of equality.” — Eric Foner, Columbia University.
Listen: The end of Reconstruction and beginning of lynchings in America.
Eric Foner is a professor of history at Columbia University. Reconstruction is a period when Americans were coming to terms with the end of the Civil War, says Foner, which provoked questions about what equality and justice would look like in the U.S. Its end brought the beginning of the Jim Crow era and the rise of lynchings.
“Reconstruction was one of the very hopeful moments in American history when it seemed that we were trying to live up to the idea of equality,” says Foner. “Unfortunately, due to violent opposition and a retreat in the north from enforcement of equality, Reconstruction ended.”