Library Blog

Celebrating Black History Month

Monday, February 18, 2019

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, it is important to read not only the great accomplishments but also the horrific hardships the black community had to endure. JSTOR editor Damon Mitchell writes about The People's Grocery Lynching, that took place in Memphis, Tennessee in March 1892. It was thought at the time that relationships were improving between the black and white communities but this was certainly not the case in an area of Memphis known as the Curve, and the newspapers were helping to escalate the tensions. Mitchell writes: "As blacks began to rid themselves of debt, white Southerners turned to racial violence, targeting blacks who they perceived as having too much ambition, property, talent, or wealth." The lynchings were considered to be justified as social crimes of being economic competitors to whites.

Ida B. Wells reported on these lynchings in her paper, Memphis Free Speech. Wells continued to write about it in her book, Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells. One of the victims of the lynchings, grocery owner, Thomas Moss, was a dear friend of Wells and she was determined to expose the real reasons behind the violence.

As Mitchell writes: "But Moss' lynching, like many others in the South, was an organized act of extralegal violence, a punishment for becoming an economic competitor to whites."

Click here to read more of Damon Mitchell's detailed accounts of the mob lynchings that took place in Memphis.

Look for more Black History Month stories from JSTOR Daily in the days ahead.

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