Chilling maps of lynchings in 1930s America

These sober maps have a chilling topic: the prevalence of lynchings throughout the U.S. from 1930 to 1938.

Most, but not all, lynchings occurred in the South.
A few years after these maps, the ASWPL 'declared victory' over lynchings and disbanded.

These sober maps have a chilling topic: the prevalence of lynchings throughout the U.S. from 1930 to 1938. They were published by the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL), an organization that sought to eradicate the practice by changing attitudes rather than laws.


Between 1882 and 1964, 4,745 people were lynched in the United States (1). Most of the lynchings took place in the Deep South. Most of the mobs were white, most of the victims (72.7%) were black (2). As terrifying a practice as ‘death by mob’ in itself must have been—often involving prolonged torture—it thus also served to affirm the racial hierarchy of white power and black powerlessness.

A curious silence surrounded the practice of lynching. Often attended by large crowds, and even commemorated by postcards, these extrajudicial killings had a terrorizing effect on black populations. Yet they rarely provoked the outraged attention of the wider public or action by the authorities.

In the 1890s, the ground-breaking work of investigative journalist Ida B. Wells—born a slave in 1862—was instrumental in exposing the mechanism behind the systematic lynching of black men. (She’s one of the women in The NY Times’ series on Overlooked Obituaries).

Lynchings peaked in the late 19th century but continued well into the 20th century. The ASWPL was founded in 1930 to combat a renewed rise in lynchings of blacks (3) across the South (4).

The ASWPL sought to counter the frequent excuse that the extralegal executions were carried out to ‘protect white women’, pointing out—as Wells had done—that the alleged rapes seldom occurred, and that the true rationale for the lynchings was racial hatred. As an ironic (or infuriating) sign of the times, the ASWPL fought racism along segregated lines. The organization only accepted white women as members, believing that “only white women could influence other white women.”

These maps, published in 1939, show the lynchings for each of the preceding years in the 1930s, from starting top left (1930) to bottom left (1933), then top right (1934) to bottom right (1937), with 1938 at the very bottom.

  • In 1930, there were 21 lynchings reported, across 9 states: 6 in Georgia, 4 in Mississippi, 3 in Texas, 2 in both Indiana and South Carolina, and 1 in Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and Oklahoma each.
  • In 1931, the total fell to 13 lynchings, in 8 states: 3 in Mississippi, 2 in Florida, Louisiana and West Virginia, and 1 in Alabama, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee.
  • In 1932, 8 lynchings were reported, each a single occurrence in each state: Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.
  • In 1933, the total rose dramatically, to 28 lynchings, in a total of 11 states: 4 in Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina, 3 in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, 2 in California and Texas, and 1 each in Maryland, Missouri and North Carolina.
  • In 1934, the total halved again to 14 lynchings, limited to 7 southern states: 6 in Mississippi alone, 2 each in Florida and Louisiana, and 1 each in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas.
  • In 1935, the figure increased to 20, across 8 states: 7 in Mississippi, 4 in Louisiana, 2 in Florida, Georgia and Texas each, and 1 in California, North Carolina and Tennessee.
  • In 1936, there were 'only' 8 lynchings, in just 3 states: 6 in Georgia, and 1 each in Arkansas and Florida.
  • In 1937, another 8 lynchings occurred, spread over 5 states: 3 in Florida, 2 in Mississippi, and 1 each in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
  • In 1938, there were 6 lynchings, in 4 states: 3 in Mississippi, and 1 each in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana.

The ASWPL established groups in all southern states, which by the early 1940s had a combined membership of 4 million. In May 1940, the organization was able to mark '12 months without a lynching’. In 1942, judging is purpose achieved, the ASWPL disbanded.

Lynchings did continue, however sporadically. The last recorded one occurred in 1981 in Mobile, Alabama. Michael Donald, a young black man, was beaten to death by KKK members. One of the perpetrators was sentenced to death and executed in 1997, the first execution for a white-on-black crime in Alabama since 1913 (5).

Map found here at Boston Rare Maps.

Strange Maps #899

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

(1) According to data collected by the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University)
(2) Between 1882 and 1903, 125 lynchings of blacks by blacks were recorded, and 4 lynchings of whites by blacks.
(3) Blacks were the victims of 20 of the 21 lynchings reported for 1930.
(4) From the 1890s to the 1940s, more than 90% of the lynchings in the U.S. occurred in the South.
(5) Michael Donald’s mother sued the United Klans of America for damages and was rewarded $7 million dollars, bankrupting the UKA and setting a precedent for civil action against hate groups.

A landslide is imminent and so is its tsunami

An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
  • A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
  • Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.

The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source: whrc.org

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source: whrc.org

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source: whrc.org

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

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The common cuttlefish

Credit: Hans Hillewaert via Wikicommons
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