Lynching in American history is often thought of as a phenomenon of the past, entrenched in the Civil Rights movement of the South. Although this is partially correct, both academics and the public need to expand the way we think of this difficult subject. There are far-reaching repercussions from these events that happened throughout time and space; lynching still affects us as a society and various projects and artists explore these effects.
For example, the Civil Rights Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University seeks to document all the examples of racially motivated killings in the South from 1930 to 1970. The project organizers hope their research will help bring justice not just to the victims, but also to their families – some of whom are still alive today. It is important to capture these families’ unique view on history because it is fading away. Director Margaret Burnham explains that in some cases the family wants to know what happened, but are unable or unwilling to hire a lawyer to find out. The project is able to “provide a legal service to communities [who] wouldn’t have otherwise have access to this [information]”  It is important to realize that this shameful part of American history happened relatively recently, and that there are still witnesses who were affected and have a story to tell. On the other hand, scholars and historians recognize that such research and seeking for justice should have started much earlier. This project helps bring the past into the present.
Historian Kidada E. Williams echoes this sentiment in her article “Regarding the Aftermaths of Lynching”. She argues that after perpetrators and the victims themselves, little attention and research is given to victims’ families and the devastating impact on them and their lives. She argues that “in not digging deeper, scholars of lynching render invisible the pain families endured living in a world where a loved one disappeared or was dragged screaming from their home…”  Williams contends that examining such nuances of the subject will allow historians to create a more well-rounded, accurate picture of how lynching affected not only individual people, but families and communities. She seeks to give a voice to an overlooked group of people.
Individual artists have also sought to change the way lynching is thought of in American history. Ken Gonzales-Day’s work focuses on lynching history in California. His Erased Lynching series (2000 – 2015) looked at the factor of race in California’s lynching history.
He discovered that lynching of minorities (African-Americans, Chinese, Latinos, and Native Americans) outnumbered lynching of white people two to one. Latinos experienced the most lynchings; I was surprised by this fact, as I had never learned it in my history classes when growing up in California. The project mostly used postcards with images of lynching on them, but with the victim and the rope removed from the picture. This was meant to “redirect the viewer’s attention away from the lifeless body of lynch victim…[and] allow viewers to see the crowd, the mechanism of the spectacle.”  He seeks to change the usual focus of lynching – the victim – to that of the perpetrators and environment surrounding the attack, thus altering history’s perception of these events.
In his related project Searching for California’s Hang Trees Gonzales-Day visited and photographed 300 lynching sites in California. This process helped him view lynching in a new way – through the physicality of the site, not just the event of the attack itself. He explains that he wanted to “expand and address the ways that lynching impacted race relations in the west, and continues to impact our understanding of race and violence in this country today.”  He very much accomplished this goal in my eyes. Growing up in California, I never thought about lynchings that may have happened in my home state – I had always thought of it as a white vs. black Southern phenomenon. But Gonzales-Day’s research revealed two lynchings in my home county in 1857, both Mexicans
There are gaps in the history and studying of lynching, but research, projects, and art such as this have started to fill in these gaps and change the way historians and the public view lynching. It is important to carefully think about and incorporate these new viewpoints in order to fully understand the repercussions of lynching and its place in American history.
 “The Goal: To Remember Each Jim Crow Killing, from the 30’s On” Accessed February 23, 2015. http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2015/01/03/374564307/the-goal-to-remember-each-jim-crow-killing-from-the-30s-on
 Williams, Kidada E. “Regarding the Aftermaths of Lynching,” Journal of American History 101, no. 3 (2014): 858. Accessed February 23, 2015
 Gonzales-Day, Ken. “Erased Lynching”. Accessed February 23, 2015. http://www.kengonzalesday.com/projects/erasedlynching/
 Gonzales-Day, Ken. “Hang Trees.” Accessed February 23, 2015. http://www.kengonzalesday.com/projects/hangtrees/index.htm