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How White Women Use Themselves as Instruments of Terror

Historians in the News
tags: racism, violence, African American history, lynching



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From the beginning, anti-black white terrorists used the defense of white women and white purity as a way to wrap violence in valor. Carnage became chivalry.

We often like to make white supremacy a testosterone-fueled masculine expression, but it is just as likely to wear heels as a hood.

Particularly in the post-Civil War era, when slavery had been undone, white male politicians used the fear of rape of white women by black men to codify racial terror.

As the author and scholar Rebecca Edwards has pointed out in her book “Angels in the Machinery: Gender in American Party Politics From the Civil War to the Progressive Era,” white politicians have long focused their furor by claiming to be the defenders of white women, a last guard against their suffering.

As Dr. Edwards noted, Mississippi’s James Vardaman, arguably one of the most violent racist politicians in American history, and that’s quite a feat, said in 1903, “a vote for Vardaman is a vote for white supremacy, a vote for the quelling of the arrogant spirit that has been aroused in the blacks by Roosevelt and his henchmen, … a vote for the safety of the home and the protection of our women and children.” Vardaman, who once famously said, “If it is necessary, every Negro in the state will be lynched,” won election and became governor of Mississippi.

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Read entire article at The New York Times

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