Gyneolatry may be defined as the worship of women or simply as the adoration of women with some kind of a religious zeal. Lynching gyneolatry in American literature will call attention the murders, rapes, and assault related to racism in America. In the American history, the lynching or the acts of killing people by extrajudicial means occurred many times in the late Eighteenth century up to the 1960s.
Angela, (194–195) argues that these launchings were mainly associated with black supremacy chiefly in the southern parts just after the American Civil War during the reconstruction era between 1865 and 1877, civil rights were being granted to freed men which aroused anxieties within the white communities. These anxieties were mainly about white men blaming the black folks for the hardships, economic downfall, and loss of social privilege. The amounts of the lynching peaked in between 19th and early 20th centuries, before the southern state enacted the segregation laws and Jim Crow laws to reaffirm white supremacy. The freedmen or former slaves were black folks who had been released from slaver either by legal means; slaves became free by either manumission where they were granted freedom by their owner or emancipation where freedom was granted as part of a larger group. Slaves were also able to earn freedom if they were well educated and trained, as a reward for long dedicated service, or at the attrition of their owners. Some became free by buying their freedom through their peculium money personal possessions.These freed slaves was generally referred to as the Free Negroes.
Motivations of the Mob killings
A great number of lynchings of civil rights workers in Mississippi in the 1960s, contributed to galvanizing public support for civil rights legislation. The civil rights movements mounted resistance to these murders in a number of ways. Intellectuals and journalists came out to encourage public education to advocate for, protest, and lobby against the killings by mob violence together with the complicity of the government to the mob violence. The term lynching probably originated during the American Revolution when Charles Lynch who was a Virginia justice of the peace, mandated extralegal punishment for loyalist. Within the southern states before the civil war, members of the abolitionist movement and those opposed to slavery were always targets of lynch mobs.
According to Davis, (123), the motivations for these racially instigated mob killings, particularly, in the southern states was the the enactment of social conventions, which enforced punishment of those perceived to have violated the customs, that were later known as Jim Crow Laws that supported the segregation of blacks and whites. Another motivation could have been the ability to establish economic and political control, and financial gain. The properties of the lynched African American Farmers or the immigrant merchants often became available to whites. These lynchings could also occur in frontier areas where legal recourse was remote. The law enforcement authorities participated and operated to promote white social dominance. During the 21st century, the dispute between the Cherokee Nation and the descendants of Free Negroes of Cherokee masters over the rights of Free Negroes to citizenship. This dispute arose because of the benefits that citizenship or membership of freedmen came with.
Real lynchings that occurred in early years of Western United States in the violent American history were not so focused on crime prevention, but shared many racists and partisan dimensions as compared to lychnings in the south. The mob killings in the Old West were mainly carried out to accused criminals in custody, and did not particularly favour a social class or racial group. The lynchings might have occurred not just because of the absence of law, but also because of the social instability of those societies, and their dispute for property, position, and the description of social order. The mob killings after the civil war were mainly associated with the southern states, especially during the period of the reconstruction. This saw the founding of the Ku Klux Klan in 1866 and was associated with heavy violence. White democrats waged attacks to both black and white republicans, which were the result of the mob violence by the insurgent secret vigilante groups. This heavy mob violence was associated with the partisan political under tones which was followed by more acts of violence that was purely racial. During the mid 1870s, the Democratic Party worked with White Line groups like the White Camellia to terrorize, bully, and slay African American in an effort to regain power. They suppressed black voting and control voting using armed militia to assassinate political leaders, community members, and suppressing civil rights (Jane, 83)
Most lynchings in the the early 20th century of African Americans, after the Democrats had regained political power, occurred in the south forcing most blacks off the voters lists, and preventing them from serving on juries. Between 1880s and 1890s, lynchings took a seasonal pattern, with the coder months being the most deadly, due to increasing economic pressures. By the late 19th century, lynching was performed by small groups of white vigilantes at night, where they were like mass spectacles with a festival like atmosphere. Children also attended these public lynchings, and were announced in the newspapers. Even photographs were taken of the lynching processes
Lynching gyneolatry is associated with the killings of black folks by white folks in a mythological sense to uphold the supremacy of the white woman. Some of the most intriguing aspects of the white image of the black mind in representing the white women is idealization. In the African American literature the supremacy of the white woman by the media, those defending racism, and black writers, has been clearly against the idealism of the white woman. Many white feminists have been particular of the irony that this idealization has imprisoned to the pedestals of serving the interests of the white man. Many black folks have responded to this psychosexual representation of the white female image by both white men and white women against blacks (Angela, pp. 194–195)
Whatever lies behind the mythology of the purity of the white womanhood, and the myth of the desirability of black men by white women is the demystification priority of black writers. These myths probably arise out of white women to become a liberating condition for black male to white female relationships. The image of the white woman has been used in defence of racism, a part of an ambition towards psychological and physical freedom from racism. Many literary works such as “The ways of White Folks” and others have tried to expose this image as a black liberating mythology.
In most cases where the aspect of blacks liberating mythology against the white woman’s image is that psychological liberation is equated to violence against white women. The American killings and violence against the black folks does not reign on sex, such that where there sex, there is violence. According to Richard Wright novels, The Long Dream (1958) gives the understanding of the representation of the white woman. Many cases of lynching gneolatry happened both in the northern and southern states. For example, in 1892, a police officer who attempted to end the lynching of African American blacks man around Port Jervis, New York, and the lynch mob put a noose round his neck to scare him. The black man was wrongly accused of assaulting a white woman, even at the inquest the police officer was able to identify eight people who were involved in the lynching, and the jury still determine that the murder was committed by unknown people (Pfeifer, 2004).
In 1920, Duluth, Minnesota, three young African American travellers were killed after the community accused them of rape and violation of the rights of a white woman. The justifications of protecting white woman and the rhetoric around the lynchings were actions that attempted to to maintain the domination of the whites in a fast changing society, and the anxieties brought about by social change. These lynchings created victims who were just mere scapegoats of other wider societal problems such as the white man’s attempts to control the economy, agriculture, labour, and education.
In Harper Lee’s novel of 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson was a black man who was wrongly accused of rape and narrowly escaped lynching. He was later killed while attempting to escape from prison. Another artistic work that epitomized with lynching is the song “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday, and was then written as a poem by one Abel Meeropol in 1939. The song was popular with the anti lynching movement, and contributed to the activities of the American Civil Rights Movement.
Lynching or acts of violence committed by a mob targeted at black folks were very common in America, but historically they are virtually non existence today. The logic of lynching gyneolatry in essence is the promotion of the white woman as the ideal, and the quintessential attraction or repulsion complex held by some blacks against the whites. The portrayal of the white woman as the ideal to the blacks creates a feeling of resentment and hatred of the black folks by the whites and promoting the white supremacy.
Pfeifer M. Rough justice Lynching and American society, 1874-1947. University of Illinois Press, (2004). Print
Davis W. Goodbye, Judge Lynch: The End of a Lawless Era in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. University of Oklahoma Press, (2006). Print
Jane D. The white image in the Black mind: a study of African American literature. Volume 194 of Contributions in Afro-American and African studies Greenwood Press, (2000) Print
Angela Y, Women, Race & Class. New York: Vintage Books, pp. 194–195. (1983). Print