Stereotypes, Dehumanization, and Justifying Racial Violence

“Six Pickaninnies
Pickin in de Rine”

The brutality of lynching and other racial violence necessitated that white participants mentally dehumanize the victims of violence. Postcards like the ones on this page, along with endless other items of memorabilia and advertising produced and consumed during the Jim Crow period, demonstrate the cultural mindset of dehumanization and the brutal stereotypes that enabled lynchings.  Viewing an entire group of people as “other,” as seen in these images, made violence against them seem less objectionable, to the point that men, women, and children attended mass spectacle lynchings as a form of entertainment. Many of the postcards displayed here were sent through the mail with cheerful greetings to friends and family, despite, or maybe because of, the images on the front, indicating the widespread social acceptance of these stereotypes.

Newspaper accounts of lynchings echoed many of the stereotypes these postcards display; Tom Brunson, for example, became a “brute” and “black devil in human form” in accounts of his lynching, rather than a man accused of a crime and deserving of justice.  Newspapers described Bill Fourney as “a big black negro brute” and “not overly bright,” Jerico Shivers as a “rascal,” and many victims as “fiends,” dehumanizing them and making their lynchings seem more justifiable.

The postcards displayed on this page were featured in the “Legacy of Lynching” library exhibits, and come from larger Wade Hall Postcard Collection at Troy University Library. 

For more on racist stereotypes and memorabilia, see the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia.

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