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5.0 out of 5 starsHow does a history of lynching affect the wellbeing of an entire population.
Reviewed in the United States on November 29, 2018
Ms. Ifill provides an in depth examination of one area in Maryland’s experience with the lynching of African Americans and it’s impact on the entire community. Very informative and well done.
5.0 out of 5 starsA history and a potential path for change
Reviewed in the United States on May 27, 2019
On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century is a ten year anniversary reissue by Sherrilyn A Ifill. This powerful book uses the Maryland Eastern Shore lynchings in the 1930s, and subsequent racial issues in the area, as a central point and example of what the legacy of lynching is and how we can begin to heal both ourselves and our country.
The horrific details of what transpired on the eastern shore is made even more horrifying when we realize that this took place in many, many small towns as well as cities throughout the south and the rest of the country. While reading this, I spoke with a couple of old friends whose families were many generations rural south. One thing stood out to me, they claimed to agree that it was horrible but also made it sound like it was simply usually just a case of justice served outside the legal system and that they were "simply hangings," as if the people were walked to the gallows and then hung. It appears that many don't think of it as terrorism or each event as something far more than simply a hanging. These were events that brought out the whites, entire families, as the victim was tortured, paraded, and, once lynched, displayed. It was done to send a message and maintain a power imbalance through terror. It was terrorism.
That terrorism was so effective that it is still felt today. Ifill's account is one of the clearest of how this coordinated terrorism perpetrated by the vast majority of whites in the rural south still has an impact. I won't try to paraphrase her explanation and examples but I recommend you read it.
Her proposal for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission approach is both workable and necessary. One aspect I know I often lose sight of when thinking about change is the need for reconciliation to begin at the local level. Communities all across the US need to begin some form of TRC work. The word reparation is often used, and those who usually speak up first in opposition often think this means money and property always and exclusively. Ifill shows how the erection of a memorial to Frederick Douglass could have been used as an opportunity to open discussion and serve as a form of reparation. Instead, there was a long fight over whether, where, and how it could be built. While certainly a step forward, it could have been a bigger step and served to bring the communities, black and white, together rather than remain split and wary of each other.
I recommend this to anyone who cares at all about striving for healing in our country. Looking back and understanding how that past is with us today is necessary. This book goes a long way toward opening that conversation. Or more importantly, many of those conversations throughout the country.
Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.