By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners

By Hands Now Known

By Margaret A. Burnham. An investigation of Jim Crow–era violence, the legal apparatus that sustained it, and its enduring legacy. Asks the question, “If the law cannot protect a person from a lynching, then isn’t lynching the law?” Explores the relationship between formal law and background legal norms in a series of cases from 1920 to 1960. From rendition, the legal process by which states make claims to other states for the return of their citizens, to battles over state and federal jurisdiction and the outsize role of local sheriffs in enforcing racial hierarchy, the author maps the criminal legal system in the mid-twentieth-century South, and traces the unremitting line from slavery to the legal structures of this period and through to today. Drawing on an extensive database collected over more than a decade and exceeding 1,000 cases of racial violence, reveals the true legal system of Jim Crow and captures the memories of those whose stories have not yet been heard. Includes 25 black-and-white illustrations. Learn more.