When a Chinese man tried to vote in Monterey, California, in 1885, a mob lynched him. In 1909, a black man was lynched in Florence, South Carolina, for allegedly injuring a mule. In 1934, another black man was lynched in Birmingham, Alabama for allegedly insulting a white woman.
In total, in the century after the Civil War, as many as 5,000 people of color were lynched by mobs in the United States. In the 1890s, on average, nine people were lynched each month. A new website documents each known death on a map, often along with gruesome details about the killing and the size of the crowd.
RJ Ramey, who created the site, was inspired by a book about the history of lynching called At The Hands Of Persons Unknown.
“It blew me away,” Ramey says. “I thought of myself as a history geek, and I thought of myself as well-educated, but I had never really realized the breadth and depth of the atrocity.”
Ramey contacted the Tuskegee University Archives, where civil rights activist and sociologist Monroe Work had documented as many lynchings as possible during his career in the early 20th century. Over the last five years–working on the project on the side from a full-time job–Ramey painstakingly combed through thousands of records from the institute, along with new data from scholars.
His website, called Monroe Work Today, includes detailed text about the history along with the map of lynchings. “I realized I had to have a thesis and defend it, and not make something just pretty or sexy or tweetable,” he says.
Each death documented on the map, color-coded by the race of the victim, includes citations
Ramey, who launched an organization called Auut Studio to carry the project forward, particularly wants to reach young students. “I thought, why doesn’t Auut Studio create that lesson plan that my teachers never thought to give us, or maybe never knew about,” he says.
“This is our history,” he says. “Every high school kid should know about it.”