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Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America

4.62  ·  Rating details ·  529 ratings  ·  58 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, 209 pages
Published January 1st 2000 by Twin Palms Publishers
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Start your review of Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America
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
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers With an Interest in the History of Lynching
In his introduction to this horrifying photographic record of racial terrorism, historian and professor Leon F. Litwack writes: "Obviously, it is easier to choose the path of collective amnesia, to erase such memories, to sanitize our past. It is far easier to view what is depicted on these pages as so depraved and barbaric as to be beyond the realm of reason. That enables us to dismiss what we see as an aberration, as the work of crazed fiends and psychopaths"(33-34).

For anyone so inclined, for
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
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
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.
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! ...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.
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.

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.
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've had this book since it's release. The recent Trayvon Death has made me think about it again. ...more
Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lynchings - not nearly as glamorous as Quentin Tarantino suggests.
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. ...more
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, quart ...more
Read/ reviewed this book years ago, and in my initial review, I praised it for showing the truth about lynchings, which most US history classes gloss over, since (Whyte) America would just as soon pretend this level of horrific violence never happened at the scope or severity it did. The review ignited a hotbed of commentary over what some believed was the glorification, even the pornographication of violence against African-Americans. This of course is a legitimate criticism, but as the comment ...more
Stephen Matlock
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-american
This is a book I'd rather didn't exist in that it documents with a clear eye the monstrous torture of black Americans by white Americans through lynching, burning, stabbing, and mutilating, all done with great cheer and vigor, with family and friends, church members and community stalwarts, grinning as the camera focuses on their deeds and their whole-hearted approval.

I sometimes say I can't understand the depravity and wickedness of humanity in that we do these things AND also claim to be a gre
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
Lady 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 matt ...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
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
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. ...more
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bought and read this book years ago. This book takes you into the depth of man's psyche and the evils that it is capable of producing. Pure evil is what I saw in this book. If it happened once, it can happen again! The evil acts are rooted in FEAR; and as long as white FEAR exist the potential for that evil to re-exist will be present. One thing that is never talked about is the post-trauma that the collective black community has to deal with everyday; it is a trauma that is never allowed to hea ...more
Parthena Wollen
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jessica Camara
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A dark, eye-opening look into the lynching culture in America, where "between 1882 and 1968, some 4,743 lynchings were recorded throughout the United States." The atmosphere and brutal mob mentality depicted in the text, photographs and postcards are shocking, and made moreso because, more often than not, the most "upstanding" citizens are defended through news reports and interviews with regard to their vigilantism. The juxtaposition of bodies, hung, burned, whipped, and mutilated and the smili ...more
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. ...more
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.
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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.

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