Without Sanctuary--Lynching Photographs

The Without Sanctuary Website which offers on display the lynching photographs which serve as one entire starting point for this work on photography I am herein engaged.

The point about these photographs is their horror, and the degree to which the crimes they represent are both unspeakable and unforgettable.  It is impossible to blot out their image in the mind and yet they are in some manner completely forgotten even as the pictures were taken, even as the acts they document were being committed.  

Like battle scenes and executions, some things are too awful to occupy permanent residence in consciousness.  To hold any one of these scenes firmly in the mind's eye, is to go slowly mad unless one possesses the temperament of the sociopath or of a forensic investigator.  

And so instead of deeply considering the photographs, themselves, those of us who sincerely wish to prevent such acts in the future, reassure ourselves and others with an endless catalogue of the facts, of the circumstances surrounding such acts, of the precise and statistical probabilities of such things happening again--where they are happening even now (I am speaking of genocide, torture and unjust murder), and how we would stop it.  

I don't know.  You had better take a look at these photos on this website one more time.  Just to be on the safe side.  Or perhaps not.  

Copyright of James Allen and John Littlefield 2000-2005, Twin Palms Publisher

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About Me

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I am a writer and a professor of English at the City College of New York, and the CUNY Graduate Center. My books include Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1979), Invisibility Blues (1990), Black Popular Culture (1992), and Dark Designs and Visual Culture (2005). I write cultural criticism frequently and am currently working on a project on creativity and feminism among the women in my family, some of which is posted on the Soul Pictures blog.