A true understanding of racism in the United States cannot overlook the mental and physical violence perpetrated towards blacks during the Jim Crow era. Creative works like Langston Hughes’ “Home” and “Father and Son,” W.E.B. Du Bois’ “Of the Coming of John,” or stories from Richard Wright’s Uncle Tom’s Children serve to illustrate the extent of racial violence during the Jim Crow era. The protagonists of these stories are lynched for attempting to raise their social status merely because they are black. Even something as simple as forgetting to address a white man as “sir,” could be seen as a form of disrespect that could elicit white violence.  The intense intimidation and violence perpetrated during this era is an inseparable part of our racial history.
Even black youth were not safe from intense racial violence. Richard Wright’s “Big Boy Leaves Home” demonstrates the way that ideas about race and gender often lead to lynching. The story centers around the violence perpetrated towards four African American youth in the Jim Crow South. Big Boy and three of his friends decide to go swimming, even though they know the local property owner might attack them for being in his lake. The story takes a dramatic turn when a white woman comes to the lakeside where the boys are swimming. The boys, fearing that they could get caught, get out of the water and try to retrieve their clothes, which were left near the position of the woman. This woman screams for her fiancée, who proceeds to shoot two of the boys. Big Boy grabs the man’s gun in an attempt to save his third friend, Bobo, and is forced to kill the man in self-defense. Both boys run home, and Big Boy’s family devises a way for him to escape to the North. At the end Big Boy is able to escape the white lynch mob, but Bobo is tarred and burned. 
The story highlights some major issues pertaining to race relations in the Jim Crow South. The boys may have trespassed on land they should not have, but their actions were merely mischievous, not ill-intentioned. It is likely that a group of white boys would not have been punished for swimming in the same lake, or would have just been scolded. However, the crux of the story’s conflict is the boys’ well-intentioned attempt to retrieve their clothes, which was misinterpreted by the woman as being a sexual assault. This illustrates the pervasive fear that white women were not safe around black men, which is similarly demonstrated in “Home,” when the protagonist is lynched for an innocent interaction with a white woman.  On the other hand, “Of the Coming of John” shows the hypocrisy of such racial violence. The protagonist, John, is chased and killed after attempting to protect his sister from being harassed by a white man. [4 ] Jim Crow era racial ideology punished any perceived threat to white women, while ignoring many actual threats perpetrated by white men.
All these creative stories highlight the real racism experienced in the Jim Crow era South. But they should not be dismissed as unrepresentative of real violence because they are fiction. Each story contains characteristics similar to the case of Emmett Louis Till. In August 1955, Emmet left Chicago to visit his extended family in Money, Mississippi. While in town Emmett whistled at a white woman in a store, an act that was far from criminal in Chicago. His action spread, and within three days he was found by two white men, beaten, and shot in the head. The men were arrested for murder, but they were eventually acquitted of the crime. 
The lynching of Emmett Till bears a chilling resemblance to the events depicted in “Home” and “Big Boy Leaves Home,” stories which were written decades before in the 1930s. This demonstrates the lingering permanence of Jim Crow racial ideology. African Americans in the South were expected to maintain a servile position, which was enforced by the constant threat of violence. Education and a lack of respect could be viewed as resistance to white privilege, and the protection of white women similarly became a mob rallying call. True stories of violence were often overlooked during this period, but creative stories provide a glimpse of the severity of Jim Crow racism.
 Richard Wright, Uncle Tom’s Children, (Harper Perennial, 2004): 1-15.
 Ibid., 17-61.
 Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folks, (Vintage, 1990): 45-49.
 W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, (Dover, 1994): 530-535.
 “Reopened Investigation into the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Emmet Till” http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2004/june/till060104