Expanding Historical Conceptualizations of Racial Violence: Coroner's Inquests in the Nineteenth Century

David Cunningham, Washington University in St. Louis
Sarah Gaby
Hedwig Lee, Washington University in St. Louis
Geoff Ward, Washington University in St. Louis

Occurrences of lynching have often been utilized as a means for measuring racial violence in communities. Lynching, however, is an extreme form of violence that occurs relatively infrequently. We extend conventional social scientific proxies for racial violence, by augmenting data on lynching patterns to incorporate various forms of homicide, suicide, and deaths recorded as accidental in six South Carolina and Missouri counties. Drawing on underutilized data from coroner’s inquest reports, we analyze the everyday racial violence that categorized the experience of living in the nineteenth century. Interrogating incidences of mortality as well as how causes of death were determined and recorded in both the antebellum and postbellum periods allow us to present racially-stratified contexts for death and dying and, in so doing, more fully address how enslavement shaped life chances. Broadening the conceptualization of racial violence also shapes understandings of the empirical ties between legacies of racial conflict and violence and contemporary conditions.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 245. New Data and New Perspectives on Mob Violence