Modernization and Lynching in the New South

Mattias Smångs

Sociological Science, September 15, 2016
DOI 10.15195/v3.a35

This article evaluates an emerging body of historical scholarship that challenges prevailing views of the primacy of rural conditions in southern lynching by positing that it was symbiotically associated with the processes of modernization underway in the region in the decades around 1900. Statistical analyses of lynching data that differentiate among events according to communal participation, support, and ceremony in Georgia and Louisiana from 1882 to 1930 and local-level indices of modernization (urbanization, rural depopulation, industrialization, agricultural commercialization, and dissolution of traditional family roles) yield results that both support and contradict such a modernization thesis of lynching. The findings imply that the consequences of the social transformation in the South coinciding with the lynching era were not uniform throughout the region with regard to racial conflict and violence and that broad arguments proposing an intrinsic connection between modernization and lynchings therefore are overstated.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Mattias Smångs: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Fordham University
Email: msmangs@fordham.edu

Acknowledgements: I thank Peter Bearman, Janet Box-Steffensmeier, Christine Fountain, David Hacker, and Kenneth Sylvester for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.

  • Citation: Smångs, Mattias. 2016. “Modernization and Lynching in the New South.” Sociological Science 3: 825-848.
  • Received: June 1, 2016
  • Accepted: July 8, 2016
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Delia Baldassarri
  • DOI: 10.15195/v3.a35

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