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Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America
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Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America

4.62  ·  Rating details ·  406 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
The Tuskegee Institute records the lynching of 3,436 blacks between 1882 and 1950. This is probably a small percentage of these murders, which were seldom reported, and led to the creation of the NAACP in 1909, an organization dedicated to passing federal anti-lynching laws. Through all this terror and carnage someone -- many times a professional photographer -- carried a ...more
Hardcover, 212 pages
Published January 1st 2000 by Twin Palms Publishers
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Wow. Okay.
I first heard about James Allen's lynching postcard collection about a couple of months ago from a BBC documentary series about racism. Then I came across a reference to the postcards once again in Tracy Thompson's The New Mind of the South a couple of days ago.
When looking through Copenhagen Library's American History section, I found this book.
It's shocking. Not for the faint hearted. But how needed it is still in this day and age! Upon my visit to the Memphis' Civil Rights Museum
David Becker
Jun 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is a gold mine for so much in American history that it's hard to know where it will end.

Lynching is something that I hold akin to the Holocaust to me: it existed, and I might have known it happened, but I didn't really know what it means. I try to learn all that I can about the Holocaust, because even today, we learn new and terrible things about what was done in the Holocaust.

I think Lynching is a closed topic. And this book is the definitive explanation. First of all, without being a
Nikhil P. Freeman
There worst book I ever read. Life changing. Where did all of that hate go? Ritual murders turned into social events for white supremacist mobs with glee in their eyes--gazing at tortured Black bodies. America will never be post-racial, too many victims need justice and collectively we keep putting off the conversation about race and white supremacy--the schizophrenic, sociopathic, genocidal idea that a lack of melanin equals superiority and gives ground to mutilate--physically, emotionally, soc ...more
Diann Blakely
The photographs of lynchings in James Allen’s book documents historical atrocities. Far more than a new addition to an encyclopedia of the Southern Gothic, WITHOUT SANCTUARY stands alone as a chronicle of shame and tragedy, one that controverts the received wisdom that most Southern lynchings were the sole work of the disgruntled “white trash” comprising the Ku Klux Klan. In fact, Klan members, masked and working under cover of night, are somehow less troubling than the “ordinary” white citizens ...more
Dec 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Um, holy shit.

I was not totally ignorant of the lynching phenomenon in the United States, as my parents and grandparents told me all about it from the time I was young (and yes, they were all opposed to it.) It was also discussed at length in my college African American Poetry and Drama class in the year 2000.

But the reality of these gruesome photos is something I was totally unprepared for (my textbooks didn't exactly have any pictures in them.)

Some things I learned from Without Sanctuary that
Jim Robles
Feb 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A picture is worth a thousand words, and this book has many pictures. Although I remain fascinated by the history of race relations in The United States in the 1920s, I find it difficult to comprehend the level of brutality demonstrated, by self-identified believers, in waging what can only be described as a terror campaign to subjugate a segment of American society. This book is tremendously helpful.

The (p. 15) report on the execution of the Holberts, captured by a reporter for the "Vicksburg E
Bridgit Brown
Dec 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Oh my goodness. Do not read this book alone. Get some friends and put together a discussion group around the reading, and bring lots of napkins, and expect surprises - especially when viewing the photos. This blood-thirsty chapter in American history is underexposed and perhaps in this new century we can talk more about it in a diplomatic way.
Pamela Denise
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am not sure this is the kind of book one actually "reads" as much as "experiences." I found this book incredibly brave and, based on filmed interviews with the author, completed with sincere humanity and humility. For every image, I found myself wondering what became of the terrorists and their children. What became of the victims' families? What is the intergenerational legacy of this trauma? How did that type of parenting affect the children of the torturers (whether attending or not) and wh ...more
Mar 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
How does one rate a book that has such horrible photos of lynching in America (it's not just in the south; there were photos of Yreka, CA and Duluth, MN; and there were lynchings as recent as the 1930s)? Half the book contains photos; the rest has text including comments about each of the 98 photos. I read very little of the text so I'm sure I missed much of what the book is about. Many of the photos were of postcards, which seemed really strange to me. I didn't want to be reminded of this grues ...more
Eugene booker
Sep 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Man what a fucked up bhook coming from someone who is a descendent of african of that time Im ashed thats apzrt of american history, one of things that make sme ashamed of bieng american, its so powerful photographs of a past that you dont wont to happen again. Great read and must of for hiostry buff aficinado's. Spoiler must of the time in the book you will se white people smiling while the brothas are bieng hanged, that should tell you something!
Thoroughly disturbing book. Displays the vicious and inhuman racism of the south prior to 1950. Extremely unsettling to look at, but very useful as a teaching resource, esp. for classes with younger college students who may be unaware of the commonness of horrendous racial violence in the South. The postcard images esp. drive this point home. A useful but chilling book.
This book is not for the soft at heart. The images consist of various lynchings in America - men, women, blacks, whites, jews. What is compelling about this book is how society socialized a person's death through postcards. Yes...a postcard...because lynching was a social event - hence the title Without Sanctuary. It is a must read book regarding one aspect of American history.

Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lynchings - not nearly as glamorous as Quentin Tarantino suggests.
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I happened across a review of this book, and the events described were sufficiently disturbing to compel me to order a copy. The text and images are at times so horrific that you must put the book down before continuing. As Americans we can be proud that "cruel & unusual punishment" was prohibited by our Constitution -- a provision that the admirable but nevertheless slave-owning Founding Fathers included, perhaps realizing that their own actions would have resulted in being hanged, drawn, q ...more
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
I found the introductory essay of this book, by Leon Litwack, to be really informative; it was very well footnoted with historical references, and describes the culture of lynching in the South, and its basis in white fear of blacks. The stories he relates of specific lynchings are almost more horrifying than the pictures. However, as soon as I opened the book, and went to examine the photos... I was surprised to see that the first photos are of white men, several of which are in the west - Cali ...more
Miss Makaveli
This is one of the hardest books I've ever read. It's hard giving it 5 stars, but that is simply because of what we see happened...the book itself, to have compiled all of this, is a must read. While there are amazing things within the African & Black community to focus on, of course this also needs to be focused on not only by non-whites, but if anything, especially by non-whites in hopes they will open their eyes and understand, even a little bit, of the WHY. I have light skin, it doesn't ...more
Ted Newell
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The whole thing goes with the theme opened up by Rod Dreher, Bill Moyers, and the James Cone book shown on my goodreads site. The book Without Sanctuary goes with a travelling exhibition of postcards from lynchings in USA between 1870 and 1940 or thereabouts. Horror show that matches Islamic State tortures. Of course Canada after the residential schools apology and Truth and Reconciliation Commission can hardly pretend the same genes are not in this country. Repentance and reconciliation is the ...more
Daniel A.
My review of Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America took about the longest time for me to mull over, and ultimately I am left only with the comment that there is nothing I could possibly say about it that other reviewers haven't already said more eloquently and persuasively. Devastating, depressing, and a must-read in order to understand race relations in the United States.
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I own this book...Its not pretty or comforting or nice and thats why I own it..Because many white people need to be taught about the horror and traumatic past of racism that still haunts people of color and photographs dont lie....They tell it just the way it was...No apologies or sugarcoating...Forces whites to get out of dry drunk addict denial when they look at and read the captions of this very important book..The next time you hear a white person tell a person of color"It happened a long ti ...more
Jul 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a horrifying book that should be viewed by every American as a reminder of how, not long ago, the lynching of Black men (and sometimes Black women and children) was commonplace in the US, especially on the Southern US. What is almost more horrible than the pictures of the corpses is the faces of the spectators at these scenes of ritual violence. We need to never forget what was once done in the name of misguided justice and out of a belief that Blacks were hardly more than animals.
Oct 04, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: readers of American history
It's impossible to "like" a book that so graphically (verbally and pictorially) depicts the horror of humanity's brutality. This book confronts readers with the gruesome reality of lynching, which (at least in "my day") was typically minimized in history classes as being a hanging, and a beating or two. The pictures and narrative hold the mirror for us to behold the truth, and it is hideously ugly and shameful.
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
A true American horror story and as eloquently done as something of this nature can be done. What a bunch of monsters all the approving participants were as they sought boogeymen for the lies they needed to believe about themselves and the fucked up world they concocted. Yet the truth is what comes through in the images and the evil normalcy of their acts. Well done and disgusting.
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kitara by: my husband
Reading this book makes me think about America and its past. It both amazes and horrors me to think that people are so capable of performing such atrocities. This book makes me really think about whether or not I'm "proud to be an American". This book definitely has the ability to draw raw emotion from the reader.
Amanda Parker
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: race-in-america
A very moving book. I read it years ago and it stays with you. Something that every african american should read. It truly illustrates the atrocities that our people have endured and that which we have overcome. The pictures are graphic but I still highly recommend it.
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
where to begin? lynching photographs turned into postcards originally meant to be sent. where to begin? i'll just go with the opening quote: "without sanctuary is a great and terrible book. it's an album of peacetime atrocities, during which hundreds of kodaks clicked."
May 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
a book of weird, repelland postcards--of lynchings in amerika--who knew that lynching postcards were a cottage industry? and that people actually bought and sent these vacation memories to friends and family? if the without sanctuary website's still up, it's worth spending time with--
Jul 03, 2015 added it
An absolute "must" for people who know about ...and especially don't know about ...America's history of terrorism.
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is important. Lynching is not a pretty subject, but it's an important part of the past. The detail and research that went into the book is thorough and impressive.
Mar 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A must have for any person interested in the history
of racism and of human cruelty in general!
Nov 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is graphic and disturbing, but it's a necessary testament to the racial horror hegemonic America all too often wants to ignore.
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James Allen is an American antique collector, known in particular for his collection of 145 photographs of lynchings in America, published in 2000 with Jon Lewis as Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America. The collection includes images of the lynching in 1911 of Laura and Lawrence Nelson, in Okemah, Oklahoma, and of Leo Frank in 1915 near Marietta, Georgia.
More about James Allen...