Owen Mattox

By nadelmedico February 1, 2018

Before this course, I had knowledge about the end of Reconstruction in the South, how the south had essentially been ruled under martial law, and of how black men and women had continued to be discriminated against after federal troops had pulled out of Southern states. Since I am from Alabama, I figured that most of the information in this course would be “nothing incredibly new”. However, I learned too well that I was not at all familiar with what the lives of African Americans were like following the end of Reconstruction. Bitterness over the ravaged infrastructure in the Southern landscape, the outcome of the Civil War, and the enfranchisement of African Americans were all factors that converged to cultivate animosity between whites and blacks in the American South, resulting in the systemic killing of thousands of African Americans. In this course, we worked to uncover these killings through in-depth research so that we might be able to offer an unbiased account of what may have actually happened. Many of the lynchings we researched were not simply the execution of a man or woman guilty of a crime. Lynchings would often be motivated by other events in the community that would create the need to have some sort of feral catharsis, disguised as simply “making an example of someone”. These lynchings, aside from being an expression of angst over any number of issues, became sociopolitical tools that sought to reassert the racial hierarchy that stood before the Civil War. They became part of a concerted effort to return to the Antebellum South. Studying and examining this era provides us insight about where we are presently in society. They show us how far we have come, but also how much farther we have to go. We are playing a part in making social progress, in educating our community about monumental events that for all we know could have happened across the street from our apartments. This course is another way to start difficult dialogue between students with different backgrounds. Using this dialogue, we can learn about contrasting views, educate ourselves about how we can better communicate our own opinions, and ultimately help move the needle in the right direction, towards progress. With this knowledge, we can attempt to break down racial barriers and educate those who are not conscious of the repercussions of this Era of Racial Terror. That last fact is why this course proved so eye opening. I would confidently say that this course was a life changing experience for myself. This era, the Era of Racial Terror, should be recognized alongside the other monumental eras documenting the black struggle in America. It is my hope that Dr. Giggie will continue to expand the scope of the research done in this course so that it will continue to educate students of all backgrounds and beliefs about the importance of lynching in America, and why these tragedies should not remain undocumented or unheard.