Black Women, White Terror: The value of discussing racial violence through the female African-American perspective
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In this thesis I explore the particular value of discussing lynching and racial violence through the female African-American perspective. I argue that this perspective is often ignored, but could shed valuable new light on our understanding and discussions of both lynching and contemporary racial violence. After giving a general impression of the history of lynching and the way that it affected the lives of African-American women, I perform a close reading of the script of A Sunday Morning in the South. This is a one-act theatrical piece, which illustrates the experience of an unjust lynching through the perspective of an African-American woman. The play was written by Georgia Douglas Johnson, an influential African-American anti-lynching playwright. In my close reading of A Sunday Morning in the South I show how Johnson in this play refutes racist stereotypes and challenges the practice and discourse of lynching. I argue that she has applied the female African-American perspective of lynching as a valuable way to illuminate the effects of lynching on African-American women and families, demonstrate the humanity of African-Americans, and appeal to the empathy of the public. Furthermore, I suggest that Johnson’s application of the female African-American perspective in A Sunday Morning in the South could also be useful in understanding and interpreting contemporary racial violence, by discussing three recent murders on African-American men and exploring the similarities that they share with the particular lynching in A Sunday Morning in the South. I then describe how these murders are generally discussed, and suggest that a larger focus on the female African-American experience of racial violence might allow for a more humane understanding of the impact of police killings of African-American men and help to illuminate the grave consequences and complexities of contemporary racial violence.