Liberalizing Lynching: Building a New Racialized State

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In spite of America's identity as a liberal democracy, the vile act of lynching happened frequently in the Southern United States over the course of the nation's history. Indeed, lynchings were very public events, and were even advertised in newspapers, begging the question of how such a brazen disregard for the law could have occurred so freely and openly.

Liberalizing Lynching: Building a New Racialized State seeks to explain the seemingly paradoxical relationship between the American liberal regime and the illiberal act of lynching. Drawing on legal cases, congressional documents, presidential correspondence, and newspaper reports, Daniel Kato explores the federal government's pattern of non-intervention regarding lynchings of African Americans from the late nineteenth century through the 1960s. Although popular belief holds that the federal government was unable to address racial violence in the South, this book argues that the actions and decisions of the federal government from the 1870s through the 1960s reveal that federal inaction was not primarily a consequence of institutional or legal incapacities, but rather a decision that was supported and maintained by all three branches of the federal government. Inaction stemmed from the decision not to intervene, not the powerlessness of the federal government.

To cement his argument, Kato develops the theory of constitutional anarchy, which crystallizes the ways in which federal government had the capacity to intervene, yet relinquished its responsibility while nonetheless maintaining authority. A bold challenge to conventional knowledge about lynching, Liberalizing Lynching will serve as a useful tool for students and scholars of political science, legal history, and African American studies.

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About the Author:


Daniel Kato is term professor of Political Science at Barnard College.

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"In this original and meticulously researched book, Daniel Kato provides an impressive argument about the role of the federal government in both the persistence of lynching and efforts to enact anti-lynching legislation. Drawing on a range of theoretical arguments and empirical sources, Liberalizing Lynching is a major scholarly contribution to analyses of the American State and racial inequality with implications for contemporary politics. Kato explains how, for close to the hundred years before 1966, the federal government accommodated the concurrent existence of liberal democracy and murderous lynch mobs. Displaying mastery of existing scholarship, Kato exposes the limits of standard notions of America as a weak state. I highly recommend Liberalizing Lynching."

-Desmond King, University of Oxford, and author of Separate and Unequal: African Americans and the US Federal Government.


"For nearly a century in the American South, lynching as a practice of racialized violence persisted openly and with minimal federal intervention. In his powerful new book, Daniel Kato not only provides a compelling and novel explanation for the reasons why. He also forcefully contends that one cannot understand either the character of American liberalism or how the American state developed over the course of the twentieth century without placing the question of racial violence at the center. Strikingly argued and displaying conceptual and historical mastery, Liberalizing Lynching is an essential and thought-provoking reinterpretation of American constitutional history as well as a timely reminder of the continuing effects of race on the body politic."

-Aziz Rana, Cornell Law School, and author of The Two Faces of American Freedom


"Using the case of lynchings of African Americans - a crime that legally had no perpetrators, yet claimed thousands of victims - Kato powerfully argues that far from being unable to act against lynching, the federal government actively chose to not act. Kato employs the theory of 'constitutional anarchy' to trace how the different branches of the federal government allowed this domestic terrorism to occur. In the wake of recent deaths of unarmed African American citizens at the hands of the police, what recourse do the people have? Kato offers a sobering look at the willingness of the American state to protect all of its citizens."

-Kimberley S. Johnson, Barnard College, and author of Reforming Jim Crow: Southern Politics and State in the Age before Brown


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2015. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In spite of America s identity as a liberal democracy, the vile act of lynching happened frequently in the Southern United States over the course of the nation s history. Indeed, lynchings were very public events, and were even advertised in newspapers, begging the question of how such a brazen disregard for the law could have occurred so freely and openly. Liberalizing Lynching: Building a New Racialized State seeks to explain the seemingly paradoxical relationship between the American liberal regime and the illiberal act of lynching. Drawing on legal cases, congressional documents, presidential correspondence, and newspaper reports, Daniel Kato explores the federal government s pattern of non-intervention regarding lynchings of African Americans from the late nineteenth century through the 1960s. Although popular belief holds that the federal government was unable to address racial violence in the South, this book argues that the actions and decisions of the federal government from the 1870s through the 1960s reveal that federal inaction was not primarily a consequence of institutional or legal incapacities, but rather a decision that was supported and maintained by all three branches of the federal government. Inaction stemmed from the decision not to intervene, not the powerlessness of the federal government. To cement his argument, Kato develops the theory of constitutional anarchy, which crystallizes the ways in which federal government had the capacity to intervene, yet relinquished its responsibility while nonetheless maintaining authority. A bold challenge to conventional knowledge about lynching, Liberalizing Lynching will serve as a useful tool for students and scholars of political science, legal history, and African American studies. Seller Inventory # AAC9780190232573

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2015. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In spite of America s identity as a liberal democracy, the vile act of lynching happened frequently in the Southern United States over the course of the nation s history. Indeed, lynchings were very public events, and were even advertised in newspapers, begging the question of how such a brazen disregard for the law could have occurred so freely and openly. Liberalizing Lynching: Building a New Racialized State seeks to explain the seemingly paradoxical relationship between the American liberal regime and the illiberal act of lynching. Drawing on legal cases, congressional documents, presidential correspondence, and newspaper reports, Daniel Kato explores the federal government s pattern of non-intervention regarding lynchings of African Americans from the late nineteenth century through the 1960s. Although popular belief holds that the federal government was unable to address racial violence in the South, this book argues that the actions and decisions of the federal government from the 1870s through the 1960s reveal that federal inaction was not primarily a consequence of institutional or legal incapacities, but rather a decision that was supported and maintained by all three branches of the federal government. Inaction stemmed from the decision not to intervene, not the powerlessness of the federal government. To cement his argument, Kato develops the theory of constitutional anarchy, which crystallizes the ways in which federal government had the capacity to intervene, yet relinquished its responsibility while nonetheless maintaining authority. A bold challenge to conventional knowledge about lynching, Liberalizing Lynching will serve as a useful tool for students and scholars of political science, legal history, and African American studies. Seller Inventory # AAC9780190232573

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