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The brute caricature portrays black men as innately savage, animalistic, destructive, and criminal -- deserving punishment, maybe death. This brute is a fiend, a sociopath, an anti-social menace. Black brutes are depicted as hideous, terrifying predators who target helpless victims, especially white women.
Charles H. Smithwriting in the s, claimed, "A bad negro is the most horrible creature upon the earth, the most brutal and merciless" p. Clifton R. Breckinridgea contemporary of Smith's, said of the black race, "when it produces a brute, he is the worst and most insatiate brute that exists in human form" p.
When a knock is heard at the door [a White woman] shudders with nameless horror. The black brute is lurking in the dark, a monstrous beast, crazed with lust.
His ferocity is Black male for white females demoniacal. A mad bull or tiger could scarcely be more brutal. A whole community is frenzied with horror, with the blind and furious rage for vengeance. During slavery the dominant caricatures of blacks -- Mammy, Coon, Tom, and picaninny -- portrayed them as childlike, ignorant, docile, groveling, and generally harmless. These portrayals were pragmatic and instrumental. Proponents of slavery created and promoted images of blacks that justified slavery and soothed white consciences. If slaves were childlike, for example, then a paternalistic institution where masters acted as quasi-parents to their slaves was humane, even morally right.
More importantly, slaves were rarely depicted as brutes because that portrayal might have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. During the Radical Reconstruction periodmany white writers argued that without slavery -- which supposedly suppressed their animalistic tendencies -- blacks were reverting to criminal savagery. The belief that the newly-emancipated blacks were a "black peril" continued into the early s.
Writers like the novelist Thomas Nelson lamented that the slavery-era "good old darkies" Black male for white females been replaced by the "new issue" blacks born after slavery whom he described as "lazy, thriftless, intemperate, insolent, dishonest, and without the most rudimentary elements of morality" pp.who helped popularize the images of cheerful and devoted Mammies and Sambos in his early books, became one of the first writers to introduce a literary black brute.
In he published Red Rocka Reconstruction novel, with the heinous figure of Moses, a loathsome and sinister black politician. Moses tried to rape a white woman: "He gave a snarl of rage and sprang at her like a wild beast" pp. He was later lynched for "a terrible crime. The "terrible crime" most often mentioned in connection with the black brute was rape, specifically the rape of a white woman. At the beginning of the twentieth century, much of the virulent, anti-black propaganda that found its way into scientific journals, local newspapers, and best-selling novels focused on the stereotype of the black rapist.
The claim that black brutes were, in epidemic s, raping white women became the public rationalization for the lynching of blacks. According to Tuskegee Institute data, from to 4, people were lynched in the United States: 3, black and 1, white Gibson, n. Many of the white lynching victims were foreigners or belonged to oppressed groups, for example, Mormons, Shakers, and Catholics. By the early s lynching had a decidedly racial character: white mobs lynched blacks. Almost 90 percent of the lynchings of blacks occurred in southern or border states.
Many of these victims were ritualistically tortured. InLuther Holbert and his wife were burned to death. They were "tied to trees and while the funeral pyres were being prepared, they were forced to hold out their hands while one finger at a time was chopped off. The fingers were distributed as souvenirs. The ears Holbert was beaten severely, his skull fractured and one of his eyes, knocked out with a stick, hung by a shred from the socket. A mob lynching was a brutal and savage event, and it necessitated that the lynching victim be seen as equally brutal and savage; as these lynchings became more common and more brutal, so did the assassination of the black character.
InCharles Carroll's The Negro A Beast claimed that blacks were more akin to apes than to human beings, and theorized that blacks had been the "tempters of Eve. William Howard, writing in the respectable journal Medicine inclaimed that "the attacks on defenseless White women are evidence of racial instincts" in blacksand the black birthright was "sexual madness and excess" Fredrickson,p.
Thomas Dixon's The Leopard's Spotsa novel, claimed that emancipation had transformed blacks from "a chattel to be bought and sold into a beast to be feared and guarded" Fredrickson, p. In Dixon published his most popular novel, The Clansman. In this book he described blacks as "half child, half animal, the sport of impulse, whim, and conceit The Clansman includes a detailed and gory of the rape of a young white virgin by a black brute.
This book served as the basis for the movie The Birth of a Nation Griffith,which also portrayed some blacks as rapist-beasts, justified the lynching of blacks, and glorified the Ku Klux Klan. Carroll, Howard, and Dixon did not exceed the prevailing racism of the so-called Progressive Era. This bill provided fines and imprisonment for persons convicted of lynching in federal courts, and fines and penalties against states, counties, and cities which failed to use reasonable effort to protect citizens from lynch mobs.
The Dyer Bill passed in the House of Representatives, but it was killed in the Senate by filibustering southerners who claimed that it was unconstitutional and an infringement upon states' rights Gibson, n. The following statements made by southern Congressmen during the Dyer Bill debate suggest that they were more concerned with white supremacy and the oppression of blacks than they were with constitutional issues.
Senator James Buchanan of Texas claimed that in "the Southern States and in secret meetings of the Negro race [white liberals] preach the damnable doctrine of social equality which excites the criminal sensualities of the criminal element of the Negro race and directly incites the diabolical crime of rape upon the white women.
Lynching follows as swift as lightning, and all the statutes of State and Nation cannot stop it. Representative Percy Quin of Mississippi, spoke of lynch law, "Whenever an infamous outrage is committed upon a [Southern] White woman the law is enforced by the neighbors of the woman who has been outraged? The colored people of [the South] realize the manner of that enforcement, and that is the one method by which the horrible crime of rape has been held down where the Negro element is in a large majority.
The man who believes that the Negro race is all bad is mistaken. But you must recollect that there is an element of barbarism in the black man, and the people around where he lives recognize that fact. Representative Sisson of Mississippi said, "as long as rape continues lynching will continue.
For this crime, and this crime alone, the South has not hesitated to administer swift and certain punishment We are going to protect our girls and womenfolk from these black brutes. When these black fiends keep their hands off the throats of the women of the South then lynching will stop Representative Benjamin Tillman from South Carolina claimed that the Dyer Bill would eliminate the states and "substitute for the starry banner of the Republic, a black flag of tyrannical centralized government Holden-Smith,p.
Senator T. These people had but one idea in view, and that was to make Black male for white females permissible, and to allow the guilty to go unpunished if that rape should be committed by a Negro against a white woman in the South. Despite the hyperbolic claims of those Congressmen, most of the blacks lynched had not been accused of rape or attempted rape. According to the Tuskegee Institute's lynching data, the accusations against lynching victims for the years to were: 41 percent for felonious assault, The Gunnar Myrdala Swedish social scientist who studied American race relations, stated:.
There is much reason to believe that this figure [ Lynchings often involved castration, amputation of hands and feet, spearing with long nails and sharpened steel rods, removal of eyes, beating with blunt instruments, shooting with bullets, burning at the stake, and hanging. It was, when done by southern mobs, especially sadistic, irrespective of the criminal charge.
Most white southerners agreed that lynching was evil, but they claimed that black brutes were a greater evil. Lynchings were necessary, argued many whites, to preserve the racial purity of the white race, more specifically, the racial purity of white women. White men had sexual relations -- consensual and rape -- with black women as soon as Africans were introduced into the European American colonies. These sexual unions produced numerous mixed-race offspring.
White women, as "keepers of white racial purity," were not allowed consensual sexual relations with black men. A black man risked his life by having sexual relations with a white woman. Even talking to a white woman in a "familiar" manner could result in black males being killed.
InEmmett Till, a black fourteen year old from Chicago, visited his relatives in Mississippi. The exact details are not known, but Till apparently referred to a female white store clerk as "Baby. The men were caught, tried, and found innocent by an all-white jury. The case became a cause celebre during the civil rights movement, showing the nation that brutal violence undergirded Jim Crow laws and etiquette. There were black rapists with white victims, but they were relatively rare; most white rape victims were raped by white men.
The brute caricature was a red herring, a myth used to justify lynching, which in turn was used as a social control mechanism to instill fear in black communities. Each lynching sent messages to blacks: Do not register to vote. Do not apply for a white man's job. Do not complain publicly. Do not organize. Do not talk to white women. The brute caricature gained in popularity whenever blacks pushed for social equality.
According to Allen D. Grimshawa sociologist, the most savage oppression of blacks by whites, whether expressed in rural lynchings or urban race riots, has taken place when blacks have refused or been perceived by whites as refusing Black male for white females accept a subordinate or oppressed status pp.
The civil rights movement of the s and s forced many white Americans to examine their images of and beliefs about blacks. Television and newspaper Black male for white females showing black protesters, including children, being beaten, arrested, and jailed by baton-waving police officers led many whites to see blacks as victims, not victimizers.
The brute caricature did not die, but it lost much of its credibility. Not surprisingly, lynchings, especially public well-attended ones, decreased in. Lynchings became "hate crimes," committed secretly. Beginning in the s the relatively few blacks who were lynched were not accused of sexual assaults; instead, these lynchings were reactions of white supremacists to black economic and social progress.
The brute caricature has not been as common as the Coon caricature in American movies. The Birth of a Nation Griffiths, was the first major American movie to portray all the major anti-black caricatures, including the brute.Black male for white females
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