Rule by Violence, Rule by Law: The Evolution of Voter Suppression and Lynching in the U.S. South

35 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2018

See all articles by Brad Epperly

Brad Epperly

University of South Carolina - Department of Political Science

Christopher Witko

Pennsylvania State University

Ryan Strickler

University of South Carolina

Paul White

University of South Carolina

Date Written: March 1, 2016

Abstract

Voter suppression, widespread and diverse, can be categorized as ad-hoc, extra-legal, often tending toward violence, or institutionalized, legal, and typically non-violent. We argue why regimes would prefer the latter, and thus that when legal approaches to voter suppression are developed they should replace violent, extra-legal approaches. We apply this idea to an important historical phenomenon: the lynching of blacks in the American South. In contrast with previous studies, we argue lynching was a political tool used to disenfranchise black citizens. We find that lynchings were more likely to take place prior to elections and in areas where the Democratic Party faced greater political threat, until Jim Crow suppression laws were in place. Once such laws were in place, the salience of political factors disappears. These results have important implications for understanding lynching and evolving forms of black voter suppression in the South, and contemporary voter suppression in America and elsewhere.

Keywords: Lynching, Violence, Elections, Race and Ethnic Politics, American Political Development

Suggested Citation

Epperly, Brad and Witko, Christopher and Strickler, Ryan and White, Paul, Rule by Violence, Rule by Law: The Evolution of Voter Suppression and Lynching in the U.S. South (March 1, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3224412 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3224412

Brad Epperly (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina - Department of Political Science ( email )

349 Gambrell Hall
817 Henderson Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Christopher Witko

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

201 Old Main
University Park, PA 16802
United States

Ryan Strickler

University of South Carolina

701 Main Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Paul White

University of South Carolina ( email )

701 Main Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

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