As these statistics show, lynchings were all too common in the early twentieth century, and they had a history much deeper and darker than any numbers can convey.
Historian Edward Ayers points out that most lynchings occurred in areas of high black population turnover, areas where whites felt more threatened by higher numbers of blacks, especially blacks whom they did not know.
In most instances, white mobs lynched black men, often in retribution for alleged crimes. Often the white perpetrators justified their actions as avenging the alleged rape of white women by black men. However, as African-American crusader Ida B. Wells pointed out as early as 1892, most lynchings had economic roots instead, with the victims often being upwardly mobile African Americans who threatened the status quo in their region.
Lynchings occurred mostly in the South, but not exclusively. For example, a lynching occurred in Urbana, Ohio in 1897. In Newark, Ohio, in 1911, there was a lynching not related to race but to illegal liquor sales.
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