Expert: Texas' violent history led to acceptance of lynch mobs

Posted at 4:06 PM, Apr 15, 2016
and last updated 2018-04-05 11:31:46-04

Almost 150 people in Texas had a gang of vigilantes - a lynch mob - seal their fates.

The Lone Star state gained its statehood in 1845. Starting in the early 1800s, almost 20 battles occurred on Texas soil.

One scholar credits this history of bloodshed to the acceptance of lynch mobs throughout the state.

“Lynching became one of the primary ways Texas men could demonstrate their penchant for violence,” Carrigan said. “Participating in a mob became a kind of rite of passage a way that they could assert their manhood and demonstrate that they too were willing to defend their community.”  

Dr. William Carrigan has studied and written a book about lynching culture in central Texas.

The scholar said there were 133 confirmed lynchings in seven central Texas counties by 1922, 67 whites, 64 blacks and 1 Mexican.           

He said he discovered vigilante violence was not always a matter of race.    

“In the earliest kind of years of lynching the kind of primary justification that lynch mobs did this is why we have to do it was the weakness of the court system,” Carrigan said. “There were lots of white victims prior to 1880—there were very few white victims after 1880.”

Data collected by the NAACP and Tuskegee University said Texas has the third highest number of lynchings in United States History. Carrigan said the number of Mexicans who were lynched were not included in that data, and if included, it could make Texas number one.

Community activist Louis Garcia is helping establish the first Hispanic history museum in Waco.

He said he read Carrigan’s book on mob violence against Mexicans.

“We were just not considered human at that time,” Garcia said. “We’ve been here and we’ve suffered these same things that everyone has suffered but you don’t hear about our suffrage.”

Despite Texas’ past, Garcia said he believes groups who were once victims - whites, blacks, and Hispanics - can embrace the past to make a better present and future together.

“We’re still moving forward and that’s what we want to continue to do. In the right way,” Garcia said.

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