WARNING: THE IMAGES IN THIS ARCHIVE ARE VIOLENT AND DISTURBING.
This is an archive of postcards of lynchings (yes they made postcards) that I have used with my university students to educate them about lynching, to provide context to some of the literature we study, and to provoke discussion about the fetishistic nature of violence (who makes postcards of these events? who buys them, sends them, collects them, and why?). Obviously, images like these must be used with care; my students inevitably find them traumatizing (I don’t require them to look at the archive, I merely suggest it; most do end up looking at it, after the discussion if not before). Often, the discussion in class revolves around our supposedly “post-racial” society. Do images like these just replay the violence and re-victimize the victims, and perpetuate racial resentment? Or do they serve a useful purpose? This is an important question, since I often find that many of my students (even black students) have never heard of lynching or the Jim Crow era. Without that context, much of 20th century American literature is unintelligible to students.