On Lynching And The Ku Klux Klan
By Ho Chi Minh (1924)
It is well known that the Black race is the most oppressed and the most exploited of the human family. It is well known that the spread of capitalism and the discovery of the New World had as an immediate result the rebirth of slavery, which was for centuries a scourge for the Negroes and a bitter disgrace for mankind. What everyone does not perhaps know is that after sixty-five years of so-called emancipation, American Negroes still endure atrocious moral and material sufferings, of which the most cruel and horrible is the custom of lynching.
The word "lynching" comes from Lynch. Lynch was the name of a planter in Virginia, a landlord and judge. Availing himself of the troubles of the War of Independence, he took the control of the whole district into his hands. He inflicted the most savage punishment, without trial or process of law, on Loyalists and Tories. Thanks to the slave traders, the Ku Klux Klan, and other secret societies, the illegal and barbarous practice of lynching is spreading and continuing widely in the States of the American Union. It has become more inhuman since the emancipation of the Blacks, and is especially directed at the latter....
From 1899 to 1919, 2,600 Blacks were lynched, including 51 women and girls and ten former Great War soldiers.
Among 78 Blacks lynched in 1919, 11 were burned alive, three burned after having been killed, 31 shot, three tortured to death, one cut into pieces, one drowned, and 11 put to death by various means.
Georgia heads the list with 22 victims, Mississippi follows with 12. Both have also three lynched soldiers to their credit. Of the 11 burned alive, the first State has four and the second two. Out of 34 cases of systematic, premeditated and organized lynching, it is still Georgia that holds first place with five. Mississippi comes second with three.
Among the charges brought against the victims of 1919, we note: one of having been a member of the League of Non-Partisans (independent farmers); one of having distributed revolutionary publications; one of expressing his opinion on lynchings too freely; one of having criticized the clashes between Whites and Blacks in Chicago; one of having been known as a leader of the cause of the Blacks; one for not getting out of the way and thus frightening a white child who was in a motorcar. In 1920, there were fifty lynchings, and in 1922 there were twenty-eight.
These crimes were all motivated by economic jealousy. Either the Negroes in the area were more prosperous than the Whites, or the Black workers would not let themselves be exploited thoroughly. In all cases, the principle culprits were never troubled, for the simple reason that they were always incited, encouraged, spurred on, then protected by politicians, financiers, and authorities, and above all, by the reactionary press....
The place of origin of the Ku Klux Klan is the Southern United States. In May, 1866 , after the Civil War, young people gathered together in a small locality of the State of Tennessee to set up a club. A question of whiling away the time. This organization was given the name "kuklos", a Greek word meaning "club". To Americanize the word, it was changed into Ku Klux. Hence, for more originality, Ku Klux Klan.
After big social upheavals, the public mind is naturally unsettled. It becomes avid for new stimuli and inclined to mysticism. The KKK, with its strange garb, its bizarre rituals, its mysteries, and its secrecy, irresistibly attracted the curiosity of the Whites in the Southern States and became very popular.
It consisted at first of only a group of snobs and idlers, without political or social purpose. Cunning elements discovered in it a force able to serve their political ambitions.
The victory of the Federal Government had just freed the Negroes and made them citizens. The agriculture of the South - deprived of its Black labor, was short of hands. Former landlords were exposed to ruin. The Klansmen proclaimed the principle of the supremacy of the white race. Anti-Negro was their only policy. The agrarian and slaveholding bourgeoisie saw in the Klan a useful agent, almost a savior. They gave it all the help in their power. The Klan's methods ranged from intimidation to murder....
The Klan is for many reasons doomed to disappear. The Negroes, having learned during the war that they are a force if united, are no longer allowing their kinsmen to be beaten or murdered with impunity. They are replying to each attempt at violence by the Klan. In July 1919, in Washington, they stood up to the Klan and a wild mob. The battle raged in the capital for four days. In August, they fought for five days against the Klan and the mob in Chicago. Seven regiments were mobilized to restore order. In September the government was obliged to send federal troops to Omaha to put down similar strife. In various other States the Negroes defend themselves no less energetically.
(Ho Chi Minh, 1924)