It wasn’t just African Americans who were lynched

tags: lynching

Beth Lew-Williams is assistant professor of history at Princeton University and author of "The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America."

... Vigilantes also targeted Native Americans, but with the primary goal of erasing them from their land. Historians have so far documented 137 Native Americanvictims of lynching between 1835 and 1964. This statistic, however, fails to capture the full violence against native peoples. The first governor of California, Peter H. Burnett, described the nature of this violence in no uncertain terms. “A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races,” he declared, “until the Indian race becomes extinct.”

State agents often instigated the lynching of Mexicans and Mexican Americans as a tactic to police the border. Historian Monica Muñoz Martinez has shown that vigilantes and Texas Rangers, under the guise of policing banditry between 1910 and 1920, murdered thousands of ethnic Mexicans without due process of law. While the killings often occurred in remote areas away from prying eyes, corpses were left behind for all to see. The dead served as a reminder of who controlled borderlands.

In my own work, I tell the history of violence against the Chinese in the U.S. West. A notable example of lynching is the case of Hong Di, a domestic servant accused of murdering his employer and slandering her good name. He was dragged out of jail and strung up by a mob in Colusa, Calif., in 1887. A photograph of his hanging, once marketed as a souvenir, shows the 16-year-old adolescent dangling from a railroad turntable, chained and shoeless. The image was a mere curiosity for collectors, but for the Chinese, it was a warning to mind the color line.

Lynchings of Chinese immigrants were relatively rare. More common were expulsions. Mobs used arson, assault and harassment to round up and drive out tens of thousands of Chinese in the 1880s. Under the banner “the Chinese must go,” vigilantes demanded that the federal government forever bar these “inassimilable aliens.” ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post

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