Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Edward Kissi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eric D. Duke, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael J. Berson, Ph.D.


African American, nadir, racism, violence



This thesis analyzes lynching and segregation in the American South between the years 1877 and 1951. It argues that these crimes of physical and social violence constitute genocide against black Americans, according to the definitions of genocide proposed by Raphael Lemkin and then the later legal definition adopted by the United Nations. American law and prevailing white American social beliefs sanctioned these crimes. Lynching and segregation were used as tools of persecution intended to keep black people in their designated places in a racial hierarchy in the United States at this time period. These crimes were two of many coordinated actions designed to physically and mentally harm a group of people defined and targeted on grounds of race. These actions of mentally and physically harming members of the group do constitute genocide under both Lemkin's original concept of genocide and the United Nations' legal genocide definition. Studies of the black experience, although starting to gain some research popularity, are virtually absent from genocide historiography. This thesis aims to fill part of that void and contribute to the emerging studies of one of America's "hidden genocides."*

* "Hidden genocides" is a term that Alexander Laban Hinton, Thomas La Pointe, and Douglas Irvin-Erickson have used to describe intentional destruction of groups in human history (genocide) that are often denied, dismissed or neglected in popular and scholarly discussions about genocide. [Alexander Laban Hinton, Thomas La Pointe, and Douglas Irvin-Erickson. Hidden Genocides: Power, Knowledge, Memory. New Brunswick, NJ.: Rutgers University Press, 2014).