Doctoral Dissertation Research: Media Discourse, Social Movements, and the Decline of Lynching in America.

Project: Research project

Project Details


This dissertation investigates how the national news media talked about lynching in the US between 1880 and 1950. Preliminary results and prior historical work suggest that lynching was originally discussed by the media as a response to the crimes supposedly committed by lynching victims. Over time, however, the media came to discuss lynching as a barbaric and uncivilized practice. This research asks why such a shift in media discourse took place, and what the consequences of this change in media discourse were.

To do so the Co-PI is: 1) assembling a national-level dataset on the occurrence of lynching; 2) gathering text data on the national news media's response to those lynchings; 3) employing new computer-aided text analytic techniques, alongside more conventional comparative historical methodologies, to analyze lynching discourse; 4) analyzing anti-lynching movement campaigns, using comparative historical methods and; 5) using quantitative methods to analyze how the probability of future lynchings in specific communities was affected by negative attention to local lynchings. The proposed research will thus address two related questions: First, did social movements affect this shift in meanings? Second, did this shift in meanings have an effect on the actual practice of lynching? The findings will aid in both understanding the case at hand and the general impact of media discourse on social movements, particularly relative to issues of violence and the meaning of justice.

Effective start/end date9/1/148/31/16


  • National Science Foundation: $11,782.00


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