My Soul Is a Witness: The Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching (CD) (2023)

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An intimate look at the afterlife of lynching through the personal stories of Black victims and survivors who lived through and beyond its trauma

Mari N. Crabtree traces the long afterlife of lynching in the South through the traumatic memories it left in its wake. African American victims and survivors had to find a way to live through and beyond the horrors of lynching. Crabtree offers a theory of African American collective trauma and memory rooted in a strategy for working through trauma that has long existed within the African American cultural tradition: the ironic spirit of the blues sensibility--a spirit of misdirection and cunning that blends joy and pain. Black southerners often shielded their loved ones from the most painful memories of local lynchings with strategic silences but also told lynching stories about vengeful ghosts or a wrathful God or the deathbed confessions of a lyncher tormented by his past. They protested lynching and its legacies through art and activism, and they mourned those lost to a mob's fury. They infused a blues element into their lynching narratives to confront traumatic memories and keep the blues at bay, even if just for a spell. Telling their stories troubles the simplistic binary of resistance or submission that has tended to dominate narratives of Black life and reminds us that amid the utter devastation of lynching were glimmers of hope and an affirmation of life.


Mari N. Crabtree
Read by:
Allyson Johnson
Blackstone Publishing
Publication Date:
January 10, 2023

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