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deliberations on lynching photography examine racial and historical
images bring up such visceral feelings . . . , we're not really
having the right kinds of conversations in this shared moment
of seeing those pictures.
Barnes, Assistant Professor of English
other things, these pictures ask how this torture could be committed
by people who in other aspects of their lives were reasonable,
Bauerlein, Professor of English
need for this grisly photographic display may be disputed for
catering to voyeuristic appetites and for perpetuating images
of black victimization. This is not an easy history to assimilate.
It is a necessarily painful and ugly story, as it includes some
of the bleakest examples of violence and dehumanization in the
history of humankind. The intention is not to depict blacks only
as victims or whites only as victimizers, but the extent and
quality of the violence unleashed on black men and women in the
name of enforcing black deference and subordination cannot be
avoided or minimized. Obviously, it is easier to choose the path
of collective amnesia, to erase such memories, to sanitize our
past. It is far easier to view what is depicted on these pages
as so depraved and barbaric as to be beyond the realm of reason.
That enables us to dismiss what we see as an aberration, as the
work of crazed fiends and psychopaths. But such a dismissal would
rest on dubious and dangerous assumptions.
--Leon F. Litwack, Morrison Professor
of American History,
University of California, from his essay "Hellhounds,"
in Without Sanctuary