While denouncing lynch law, though, the pamphlet by no means isolates lynching's practice; instead, it insists on the inextricability of such extralegal violence from what Wells calls "class legislation" (Chapter 2) and "the convict lease system" (Chapter 3), state-sanctioned forms of discrimination that exemplify the systemic quality of race-hatred in the United States.
The 1893 exposition haunted by the spectre of lynch law and politicized by the antilynching activism of Wells and Douglass also introduced many of its visitors to another kind of souvenir: the picture postcard, a mass-produced communications technology that would soon provide one signature for mobility in modernity.
In it I concentrate on two moments in the genealogy of lynching's mass mediation: the first around 1908, when the state's vexed relation to lynch law acquired distinctive urgency, and the second in the present, when the recirculation of lynching's souvenirs has become newly charged.
As important, however, is the extent to which the details of James's capture and the souvenirs of his execution foreground another, related dynamic: lynch law incited the frenzied movement of white mobs so as to arrest the new material and social mobility enjoyed (however haltingly) by many African-Americans following Reconstruction.
10) The determination to enact this legislation will indicate by contrast the significance of the postcard's promiscuity for the reach of lynching's terror: clearly, the use of such cards played an important part in sustaining and extending lynch law.
At stake, I would suggest, is the artificial sanctity of an American ideal: for by isolating images this way the website can emphasize their aberrance while avoiding messy questions about the inextricability of lynch law from familiar routines of national life and familiar modes of national belief.
Stephen Best has recently read this exchange in the context of Wright's Black Boy as the intersection of lynch law (or the law of abuse and threats of bodily harm) and family law (the law of "the Southern way of life," in which people occupy a hierarchically determined "place").
Through actual and symbolic violence, emasculation, and even rape, the rule of lynch law ultimately appropriates and reconfigures the relationship of self to body - a relationship which governs the construction of a black masculine self.