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The Utility of Murder: Fred Gildersleeve and the Lynching of Jesse Washington

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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/12831

The Utility of Murder: Fred Gildersleeve and the Lynching of Jesse Washington

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Title: The Utility of Murder: Fred Gildersleeve and the Lynching of Jesse Washington
Author: Morimoto, Stephanie
Advisor(s): Buick, Kirsten Pai
Committee Member(s): Zuromskis, Catherine
Coleman, Finnie D.
Department: University of New Mexico. Dept. of Art and Art History
Subject(s): Lynching
Jesse Washington
Fred Gildersleeve
LC Subject(s): Lynching--United States--History--20th century
Lynching--United States--Pictorial works--Social aspects
African Americans--Violence against--History--20th century
Photography--Social aspects
Washington, Jesse, d. 1916
Gildersleeve, Fred A., 1881?-1958
Degree Level: Masters
Abstract: On May 15, 1916, in Waco, Texas, Jesse Washington was tortured to death before a mob estimated to be 10,000-15,000 strong. Local photographer Fred Gildersleeve compounded this tragedy by creating photographic postcards of this infamous spectacle lynching for sale to interested spectators. Both the Washington lynching and the Gildersleeve photographs have been well documented by scholars, but the majority of these texts only discuss the subject as it relates to one particular time period. In my thesis I compare and contrast different interpretations of lynching and the Gildersleeve photographs, as articulated in interviews, newspaper articles, and internet postings, from the early twentieth century until the present day. What I have found illustrates both the changes and continuities in American culture over time. While most people now condemn lynching and white supremacist ideologies, some also interpret the photographs in ways that obscure or even nurture prejudice. Disturbingly, even if perpetrators are denounced as criminals, contemporary witnesses do not always accept that targets of lynching are truly victims.
Graduation Date: May 2011
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/12831

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