Lynching to Belong
Claiming Whiteness through Racial Violence
Texas History - African American Studies
6 x 9, 208 pp.
14 b&w photos., 1 map.
Pub Date: 10/04/2007
Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University
Price:        $24.95

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Lynching to Belong

Claiming Whiteness through Racial Violence

By Cynthia Skove Nevels

Thousands of black men died violently at the hands of mobs in the post–Civil War South. But in Brazos County, Texas, argues Cynthia Nevels, five such deaths in particular point to an emerging social phenomenon of the time: the desire of newly arrived European immigrants to assert their place in society, and the use of racially motivated violence to achieve that end.

Driven by economics and the forces of history, the Italian, Irish, and Czech immigrants to this rich agricultural region were faced with the necessity of figuring out where they fit in a culture that had essentially two categories: white and black. In many ways, the newcomers realized, they belonged in neither position.

In the end, they found ways to resolve the ambiguity by taking advantage of and sometimes participating directly in the South’s most brutal form of racial domination. For each of the immigrant groups caught up in the violence, the deaths of black men helped to establish racial identity and to bestow the all-important privileges of whiteness.

This compelling and superbly written study will appeal to students and scholars of social and racial history, both regional and national.

CYNTHIA SKOVE NEVELS is a history instructor at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas. She is a member of the Texas State Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians. This is her first book.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Cynthia Skove Nevels has provided a valuable addition to the literature by concentrating on five lynchings that occurred around the turn of the last century in Brazos County . . . Lynching to Belong is concisely written and meticulously researched.”--Gary Borders

". . . careful study of the political, racial, and ethnic dynamics of Brazos County, Texas, during the decades of the late ninteenth century. . . contributes to an understanding of the complexity of race relations during the 1890s in Texas."-Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"This study is a valuable contribution to our understanding of how such ideas shaped Texas and the nation."-Great Plains Quarterly

“Short but well-argued examination of three instances of immigrant involvement in lynching . . . solid context for the examples she uses to argue her position. Her documentation is solid, and illustrations help to clarify what is a relatively brief work . . . she brings a fresh perspective to the perplexing issue of what causes virulent crowd behavior such as lynching . . . a solid work that the scholarly community should not ignore.” --Southwest Journal of Culture

“Through careful archival research, Nevels provides a fascinating and compelling social history of Brazos County . . . . Whether or not one agrees with its thesis, Lynching to Belong deserves to be read by all serious students of the history of southern racial violence and racial/ethnic relations.” --Journal of American History

“provides the reader with an excellent case study within the history of lynching in the United States and should be read in conjunction with other studies broader in context.” --American Historical Review


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