Legacies of Racial Violence

Gale F. Ross, "Civil Rights series." Used with permission of artist.

There is growing awareness of the continued significance of historical racial violence in the United States, and of the need for remedial effort. Social research on lynching – an icon of 20th century racial terror – finds that these events predict higher levels of conflict and violence (e.g., hate crime and homicide rates) in the same areas today. Patterns of Civil Rights Movement-era (1955-75) racial violence apparently help to explain this lasting relationship between earlier lynching and contemporary lethal violence. Meanwhile, several communities divided by living histories of racial violence are pursuing transformative racial justice.

This project aims to inform this research, education, and advocacy by developing a more systematic account of historical racial violence, and through research on legacies and reckonings.

The Racial Violence Archive 

The Racial Violence Archive gathers and analyzes records of racial violence in U.S. history. Building upon detailed data on 19th and early-20th century lynching, the collection currently focuses on events of terroristic social control (intimidation, violence, and reprisal meant to create fear and control behavior) targeting African Americans in mid-20th century U.S. South.

A public history initiative, the web-based archive is being developed to include interactive components enabling users to: (1) view information about events of racial violence (e.g., narratives and maps), and (2) contribute new event information or add to existing records, such as related photographs, documents, or details. This will improve event data while supporting public engagement with this living history of racial violence, through research, education, and advocacy.

Click here for more information about the Racial Violence Archive.

Related Publications  

Ward, G. (2016). “Microclimates of Racial Meaning: Historical Racial Violence and Environmental Impacts,” Wisconsin Law Review, 3, 2016.

Owens, Peter, David Cunningham, and Geoff Ward (2015). “Threat, Competition, and Mobilizing Structures: Motivational and Organizational Contingencies of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan” Social Problems.

Ward, Geoff and David Cunningham, eds. (2015). “Legacies of Racial Conflict and Violence.”
Special issue of Race & Justice, 5 (2).

Petersen, Nick and Geoff Ward (2015). “The Transmission of Historical Racial Violence: Lynching, Civil Rights-Era Terror, and Contemporary Interracial Homicide.” Race & Justice, 5 (2), 114-143.

Ward, Geoff (2015). “The Slow Violence of State Organized Race Crime.” Theoretical Criminology, 19 (3), 299-314.

Related Initiatives 

>> Civil Rights & Restorative Justice

The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) conducts research and supports policy initiatives on anti-civil rights violence in the United States and other miscarriages of justice of that period.

>> The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation works in communities and classrooms, in Mississippi and beyond, to support a movement of racial equity and wholeness as a pathway to ending and transcending all division and discrimination based on difference.