[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----USA
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Aug 18 21:58:43 CDT 2011
Research Examines the Black-And-White Issues Surrounding Executions in the
An examination of post-emancipation executions in the South is revealing how
race played a significant and under-examined role in executions. Annulla
Linders, a University of Cincinnati associate professor of sociology, will
present the research on Aug. 21, at the 106th annual meeting of the American
Sociological Association in Las Vegas.
Linders combed through newspaper archives in the Library of Congress to examine
the meanings and understandings about race and justice that were produced in
newspaper accounts of legal, public executions of African-American convicts --
reports produced by white reporters for white readers.
Previous research has suggested that capital punishment in the South was used
against African-Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century to ensure and
reinforce white domination, says Linders. However, she writes that, "Partially
concealed under the weight of oppression is evidence that the execution also
served as a critical site of resistance."
She explains that the executions of black convicts also became black cultural
events that evolved into sites of black resistance to oppression. "Thus it is
evident, despite many accounts to the contrary, that the white authorities
recognized the danger of using capital punishment as a form of racial
domination, even as they held on to the belief that the (public) execution of
black criminals was an important tool in the control and submission of blacks,"
Linders explains that while "white justice" was put on public display, there
could be hundreds of African Americans congregating at the site, taking off
work and traveling long distances. "It's quite clear that these events posed a
potential source of conflict. Thousands of black people are coming to town to
see one black person publicly executed.
"So, there are two fundamental ways in which the reporters addressed that
conflict," says Linders. "One was to try to reassure readers that the black
community also felt the event was a 'just' execution. Also, the portrayal of
hostility served different purposes, primarily to justify the oppression. So it
was a difficult balancing act for the news writers in downplaying the
oppression and legitimizing it at the same time."
Linders adds that the reports of the religious fervor of the audience was
another signal that these executions had become sites for black resistance,
adding that segregated churches were the sites where the Civil Rights Movement
was eventually born. "Taken together, the subversion of executions by black
audience members fits into the much larger mobilization of black resistance
throughout the late 19th and early 20th century," concludes Linders.
The research was supported by the University of Cincinnati's Charles Phelps
Taft Research Center.
(source: Science Daily)
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