Lynching in the Age of Color Blindness: A Crime Against Humanity

Sep 14, 2013

Police killings in Chicago at 40 times the rate of lynching during Jim Crow
Police Killings nation-wide at four times that rate
by Ted Pearson[i]

Chicago, March 5, 2012

Between 1882 and 1968, a period 86 years 3,446 African Americans and 1,297 whites were lynched in the United States.[ii]  These were people who were killed, usually by hanging, often by hysterical by mobs of people who acted outside the law.  The perpetrators of these crimes were self-appointed judges, juries, and executioners.  73 per cent of the victims were African Americans.  The average rate of lynching was 55 people per year.

In Chicago, in the 33 months from January, 2009 to November, 2011 there were 51 people killed by Chicago Police Department officers, according to official CPD statistics.[iii]  The police acted as officers of the law, but they acted as judge, jury and executioner in these cases.  Police shot 160 men and 1 woman in the same period.  African Americans were 74 per cent of the victims; 20 per cent were other people of color.  The average rate of police killings was 20 every year in this period.

In the United States as a whole in the last decade of the 20th Century, from 1990 to 2000, there were 2,054 people killed by police.[iv]  The average rate of such killings was 205 per year.

The rate of police killing in Chicago is almost 40 times higher than the rate of lynching in the United States during the worst period of jim crow segregation and white supremacy in the United States.[v]  The rate of police killings in the country as a whole is almost 4 times the rate of lynching in the United States during that period.  This is cause for an international outcry from all people who value human rights.  It rivals the excesses of the most brutal repressive governments so roundly condemned by the “international community.”

These statistics don’t include the uncounted number of people who die in police custody or in county jails across the country while awaiting trial, including many who allegedly “commit suicide” by hanging themselves with their own clothing, those who meet with mysterious accidents like falling down elevator shafts.  It doesn’t include the prisoners in state and federal penitentiaries who suffer and die from a lack of medical treatment.

An international outrage against human rights.

The case of Howard Morgan in Chicago is a symbol of this crisis.  Morgan was shot 28 times by police after a traffic stop on the city’s West Side.  As observed by Angela Davis in a recent statement on the case, Morgan “took 21 shots in his back [from police] as he lay supine on the street, but miraculously, he did not die.  It is hard to believe that after enduring this attack, he was charged with attempted murder of the police officers who tried to kill him.”  Davis urged “all who value democracy and human rights to join with me and his Chicago supporters in demanding [Mr. Morgan’s] freedom.”[vi]

In her seminal work, “The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Michelle Alexander, Professor of Law at Ohio State University, calls for a new civil rights movement bringing together people of all races and classes to fight against mass incarceration on the basis of human rights and justice.  The fight against extra-judicial police killings is part of the effort to build such a movement.

In Chicago the demand for freedom for Howard Morgan is germinating such a movement.  Expect this movement to sweep the country to demand an end to police killing and an end to mass incarceration.  It can win the release of Howard Morgan, Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Bradley Manning, and all political prisoners.
[i] Ted Pearson is Co-chairperson of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and a member of the National Exectuive Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialsim.
[ii] Lynchings: By State and Race, 1882–1968″. University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. Retrieved 2010-07-26. “Statistics provided by the Archives at Tuskegee Institute.  These figures do not include the scores of Black men gunned down by police throughout our history, for which there seem to be no statistics prior to 1990.
[iii] Independent Police Review Authority, City of Chicago, compiled reports January, 2009 – October, 2011.
[iv] Table, “Fatal Shootings by Police 1990-2000,” Washington Post,
[v] The population of the U.S. is 311,591,917 (U. S. Census Bureau).  The population of Chicago is 2,884,382 (best estimate from three sources:, and  The average rate of lynching in the U.S. from 1882 to 1968 was 55 / 3,116 = .018 per 100,000 people.  The average rate oif police killing in Chicago was 20 / 28 = .71 per 100,000, or 3,900 per cent.
[vi] Angela Y. Davis, “Angela Davis urges freedom for Howard Morgan,” statement released to the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, March 2, 2012