Reckoning with a Violent and Lawless Past: A Study of Race, Violence and Reconciliation in Tennessee
Russell, Carrie Archie
This project examines acts of violence and injustice directed toward Black Tennesseans in the forms of slavery, Jim Crow legislation, lynching, pogroms and race riots between 1865 and 1946. After systemic research of newspaper and county court archives for this period of time, I have been unable to find any evidence of conviction of lynch mob members who participated in four urban race riots, 11 rural pogroms, and 213 lynchings of Black Tennesseans. To the contrary, most of these crimes were deemed to have occurred “at the hands of parties unknown.” I believe that the lack of justice provided Black Tennesseans, particularly after the Civil War, and the inability of government institutions to address it in a comprehensive manner is a burden borne by all Tennesseans today and a topic that deserves redress. I argue that in addition to political apologies, this redress should take the form of reconciliation commissions convened in communities where violence occurred.