Mob Violence and the Solid South: Social Institutions and the Project of White Patrician Patriarchy

Amy K. Bailey, University of Illinois at Chicago
Erielle Jones, University of Illinois at Chicago
Madalyn Grohovena, University of Illinois Chicago
Alberto Corral, University of Illinois Chicago

This paper examines how the South’s prominent social institutions — religious organizations, local newspapers, and political structures — worked to advance or condemn mob violence and perpetuate white patrician patriarchy. Veneration of the Confederacy emerged as the white public religion in the South (Matthews 2004) thanks in large part to the memorial efforts of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (Cox 2019), a project intricately linked to resuscitating white southern men’s masculinity following a humiliating Civil War defeat (Crow 2006). White religious and political structures, and many news organizations, supported this new cultural form. Many white-controlled religious organizations explicitly endorsed white supremacy and racial segregation, either barring Black people from membership or relegating them to subordinate denominations tightly controlled by whites (Bailey and Snedker 2011; Montgomery 1992). Black Southerners simultaneously created independent, liberationist religious groups, and transported their faith North with the Great Migration (Montgomery 1992; Foley 2021). White-controlled newspapers voiced a variety of positions supporting or opposing “lynch law.” We use both archival primary source material and quantitative data on election results and religious membership (United States Census Bureau 1992), tracing denominational racio-religious histories and rhetoric. Building on Abbott and Bailey (2021), we examine voting patterns and political rhetoric, and link them to temporal and spatial trends in mob violence. Finally, we examine journalistic accounts of violent and potentially violent episodes, to identify patterns in how collective violence is justified and explained in the context of broader social themes. We anticipate that a substantial body of evidence will provide “naturalistic” explanations for and justifications of prevailing social relations, and vitiate (either explicitly or implicitly) for furthering white patrician patriarchy as a strategy for maintaining social order and southern culture.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 127. Narrative and Counter-Narratives of White Supremacist Violence in the Postbellum South