On this dayDec 31, 1952

First Year in 70 Years Ended with No Reported U.S. Lynchings

On December 31, 1952, for the first time in seventy years, American press outlets reported that a full year had passed with no recorded incidents of lynching in the country. Defined then as non-judicial murders carried out by vigilante mobs, lynching was a frequent tool of racial terror wielded by white mobs to terrorize black Americans and to reinforce white supremacy.

Prior to 1881, reliable lynching statistics were not recorded. But the Chicago Tribune, the NAACP, and the Tuskegee Institute began keeping independent records of lynchings as early as 1882. As of 1952, these authorities reported that 3,431 African Americans had been lynched since 1882. More recently, EJI has documented more than 4,400 African American victims of racial terror lynching killed throughout the United States between 1877 and 1950.

Lynching in the United States was most common in the later decades of the nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth century, during post-reconstruction efforts to reestablish a racial hierarchy that subordinated and oppressed black people. Before the lynching-free year of 1952, annual lynching statistics were exhibiting significant reductions. Between 1943 and 1951 there were twenty-one lynchings reported nationwide, compared to 597 between 1913 and 1922. After 1952, the number of lynching incidents recorded annually continued to be zero or very low and the tracking of lynchings officially ended in 1968.

Though the diminished frequency of lynching signaled by the 1952 report was encouraging, the Tuskegee Institute warned that “other patterns of violence” were emerging, such as the replacement of lynchings with racist use of the death penalty, and more covert acts of violence such as bombings, arson, and beatings. Similarly, a 1953 editorial in the Times Daily of Florence, Alabama, noted that, though the decline in lynching was good news, the proliferation of anti-civil rights bombings demonstrated the South’s continued need for “education in human relations.”

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