Historical Racist Violence and Intergenerational Harms: Accounts from Descendants of Lynching Victims

AuthorShytierra Gaston
DOI10.1177/00027162211016317
Published date01 March 2021
Date01 March 2021
Subject MatterIntergenerational Effects
78 ANNALS, AAPSS, 694, March 2021
DOI: 10.1177/00027162211016317
Historical Racist
Violence and
Intergenerational
Harms: Accounts
from
Descendants of
Lynching Victims
By
SHYTIERRA GASTON
1016317ANN THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMYHISTORICAL RACIST VIOLENCE AND INTERGENERATIONAL HARMS
research-article2021
African Americans are disproportionately victimized by
various forms of racialized violence. This long-standing
reality is rooted in America’s history of racist violence,
one manifestation being racial lynchings. This article
investigates the long-term, intergenerational conse-
quences of racial lynchings by centering the voices and
experiences of victims’ families. The data comprise in-
depth interviews with twenty-two descendants of
twenty-two victims lynched between 1883 and 1972 in
the U.S. South. I employed a multistage qualitative
analysis, revealing three main domains of harmful
impacts: psychological, familial, and economic. The
findings underscore that racist violence has imposed
harm beyond victims and for many decades and gen-
erations after the violent event. These long-term, inter-
generational harms, especially if multiplied across
countless incidents, can fundamentally impact the well-
being of individuals, families, and communities as well
as contribute to structural and macrolevel forces.
Findings from this study have implications for research,
policy, and practice, including efforts toward redress
and reparations.
Keywords: families; intergenerational trauma; trauma;
lynchings; racial violence; reparations
Throughout U.S. history, Black Americans
have been disproportionately victimized by
varied forms of violence, including the most
dramatic: racial lynchings. The impacts of such
racist terrorism have reverberated beyond vic-
tims and extended to families, communities,
and broader society, leaving long-term and
intergenerational impressions while imposing
Shytierra Gaston is an assistant professor in the
Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at
Georgia State University. She uses quantitative and
qualitative methodologies to investigate issues related
to race, crime, and criminal (in)justice as well as correc-
tions, prisoner reentry, and collateral consequences of
criminal justice contact. Recent scholarship can be
found in Criminology, Crime & Delinquency, Criminal
Justice & Behavior, Urban Affairs Review, and
Homicide Studies.
Correspondence: sgaston9@gsu.edu

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