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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Arthur Raper, January 30, 1974. Interview B-0009-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role of the ASWPL in the decline in lynchings during the 1930s

Raper discusses the role of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching in the declining number of lynchings during the 1930s. Ultimately, Raper argues that it was a combination of circumstances that contributed to the gradual decline of lynching, although he suggests that the Southern Commission for the Study of Lynching, along with the work of Ames and ASWPL, was especially influential. Here, as elsewhere, he cites Ames' argument against lynching as a protection of white southern womanhood as particularly powerful during that era.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Arthur Raper, January 30, 1974. Interview B-0009-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACQUELYN HALL:
This is my question, well, two related questions. One big question. Why did lynching decline? Secondly, how important was the ASWPL really in the decline of lynching? Among all the different factors that caused its decline. Was the ASWPL…
ARTHUR RAPER:
The dominant factor?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well…yes.
ARTHUR RAPER:
If you have an inclination sometime, if you want to, I'll show you the clippings that came out when, I think I have a set of clippings on—I know I have— that came out when the book came out, but then this is a little bit after the fact, in terms of her organization. Because that was '33. Of course, she ran on up towards '40. I don't know, lynching is related to a thing that I was trying to say last night, near the end of the session over there. There are periods when combinations of circumstances make it possible for new things to emerge and then there are periods when you are making progress even if you just don't lose ground. And we're in one of those now, very pronouncedly. And lynching…I don't know, I think that the work of the Southern Commission for the Study of Lynching, plus the work of Mrs. Ames' group would weigh in there, would weigh in very heavily as one of the reasons for the decline.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, the research was done, the analysis, the research was done by other people, but she and her organization spread the word. What was their validity? That's what I'm trying to get at. If she had not organized that movement, but the research had been done, so that this general argument was there, then, what would have happened?
ARTHUR RAPER:
About the same thing. Maybe not quite. It was an additional plus…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, this is a hard question, how do you say how much…
ARTHUR RAPER:
I don't think you can. But the nature of mob violence relates to a whole bunch of factors and the one thing that came into the situation in 1930, see, we were going into the Depression and what not, We weren't going into heydays, we were going into hard days and the lynchings might have gone up tremendously before you got to '35. And as it was, they generally stayed below what they had been five years before. And the thing that came in there was the Southern Commission on the Study of Lynching and plus Mrs. Ames' work. And that was new. And it simply wasn't respectable to use protection of southern white women as a defense for lynching any longer. And Mrs. Ames made a very real contribution, exactly at that point, as I said when I first started on it.