New Research: More Lynchings in Places with More Confederate MonumentsBreaking News
tags: lynching, Confederacy, public history, Lost Cause
The national debate over Confederate monuments and their place in public spaces hinges on a fundamental disagreement. What do the memorials actually symbolize? Many of those who want the monuments taken down argue that they represent racism, while people who prefer to maintain the memorials often say that they stand solely for southern heritage or pride — not hatred. A new analysis of existing data sheds light on the discussion.
The study, led by University of Virginia social psychology researcher Kyshia Henderson, has uncovered a quantifiable connection between Confederate monuments and the prevalence of lynching. A team of other UVA researchers — including Batten School professors Sophie Trawalter, Michele Claibourn, and Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi as well as data scientist Samuel Powers — contributed to the new and rigorously peer-reviewed work, which was published today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The contentious debates over Confederate monuments are often framed as battles between differing opinions, but "at the center of these debates are testable questions," Henderson explained. "We can go beyond opinions and add some empirical evidence to this discussion. Specifically, we can test whether Confederate memorials are associated with hate."
Lynching, a recognizably racist and extreme form of extrajudicial violence, became prevalent in the South during Reconstruction. Lynchings were a common tactic to suppress civil rights efforts and terrorize Black communities. The researchers reasoned that if Confederate memorials served a similar purpose, the monuments and lynching might be connected.
Some scholars have already performed research that supports the link between Confederate memorials and racism. In their paper, Henderson and her co-authors note that many monuments were dedicated during the Jim Crow era, often on the grounds of prominent government buildings. The researchers also cite a review of 30 dedication speeches for Confederate memorials, which found that nearly half invoked “explicit racist language,” including phrases such as “love of race” and “your own race and blood.”
In addition to scholars, “this is something that activists have also been saying for a very long time,” Henderson noted.
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