Without Sanctuary

Without Sanctuary

Lynching Photography in America

by James Allen



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The Tuskegee Institute records the lynching of 4,742 blacks between 1882 and 1968. This is probably a small percentage of these murders, which were seldom reported, and led to the creation of the NAACP in 1909. Through all this terror and carnage, someone- many times a professional photographer- carried a camera and took pictures of the events. These lynching photographs were often made into postcards and sold as souvenirs to the crowds in attendance. Historians have also detailed the carnival atmosphere and the social ritual of a lynching, which was often announced in advance and drew thousands of people from the surrounding area. Most disturbing is the sight of the white people, looking straight at the camera as if they had nothing to be ashamed of, often smiling.

These images are some of photography's most brutal, surviving to this day so that we may now look back upon the carnage and perhaps know our history and ourselves better. The almost one hundred images reproduced here are a testament to the camera's ability to make us remember what we often choose to forget.