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Southern Women in the Anti-Lynching Campaign

Document 4

The following document explains the origins of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching:

      The sense of responsibility of Southern women was greatly increased because of the generally accepted reason that lynchings were necessary in order to protect Southern white womanhood. If white women of the South could find no protection under the law as all other citizens do, and must look to the fury of a maddened mob for their protection, then women should recognize their status. . . .

      Convinced by the consideration of facts that lynching was not actually committed in protection of white women, but that this excuse was used to condone a crime against law, order, and government, and a menace to the Southern home and to childhood, the women so gathered expressed themselves in word and in resolution no longer to remain silent in the face of this crime done in their name; to repudiate lynchings for any reason whatsoever and to continue to agitate against lynchings until they should cease.

      The women gathered in Atlanta were deeply concerned that many of their sex were present at lynchings and sometimes actively participated in the brutal orgies, and that young boys and girls and not infrequently young children, were interested observers. The shock and permanent damage to the sensitive minds of youth, the undermining of all respect for law and the courts in the lives of those who later on would constitute voting citizens, impressed upon the women their double responsiblity since in the hands of women as mothers and teachers, these young people passed their character forming years.

      With positive convictions of their responsibility as citizens who help create government, Southern white women, in whose name their men were committing crimes, and as mothers and teachers of the children by whom this government must be carried on to higher things, these women departed for their home states committed to work unceasingly against lynchings.

-- Excerpt from "History of Movement," [November 1930],
Commission on Interracial Cooperation Papers

8. What did these women think of the "generally accepted reasons that lynchings were necessary?"

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9. Why did these white women organize to fight lynching?

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