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A Deed So Accursed

Lynching in Mississippi and South Carolina, 1881–1940
Terence Finnegan

BUY Cloth · 248 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813933849 · $39.50 · Feb 2013
BUY Ebook · 248 pp. · ISBN 9780813933856 · $39.50 · Feb 2013

From the end of Reconstruction to the onset of the civil rights era, lynching was prevalent in developing and frontier regions that had a dynamic and fluid African American population. Focusing on Mississippi and South Carolina because of the high proportion of African Americans in each state during "the age of lynching," Terence Finnegan explains lynching as a consequence of the revolution in social relations—assertiveness, competition, and tension—that resulted from emancipation. A comprehensive study of lynching in Mississippi and South Carolina, A Deed So Accursed reveals the economic and social circumstances that spawned lynching and explores the interplay between extralegal violence and political and civil rights.

Finnegan's research shows that lynching rates depended on factors other than caste conflict and the interaction of race and southern notions of honor. Although lynching supported the ends of white supremacy, many mobs lynched more for private retaliation than for communal motives, which explains why mobs varied greatly in size, organization, behavior, and purpose.

The resistance of African Americans was vigorous and sustained and took on a variety of forms, but depending on the circumstances, black resistance could sometimes provoke rather than deter lynching. Ultimately, Finnegan shows how out of the tragedy of lynching came the triumph of the civil rights movement, which was built upon the organizational efforts of African American anti-lynching campaigns.


Terence Finnegan’s well-researched monograph explores how and why episodes of mob violence varied so much between two Deep South states, Mississippi and South Carolina. This is one of the oldest and most important questions in the history of racial violence, and Finnegan’s complex answer is an important contribution to the study of lynching in the United States.

William Carrigan, Rowan University, author of The Making of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836–1916

In A Deed So Accursed, Terence Finnegan focuses on a topic most people would like to ignore or forget. Not only does he prevent his readers from forgetting, but he does so with compassion and attention to the individual.... A Deed So Accursed shies away from nothing and relays valuable historical and sociological information.

Journal of American Culture

As Terence Finnegan aptly argues, the economic, demographic, and political climates of Mississippi and South Carolina in the years between 1881 and 1940 leave these states well suited for a comparative study of lynching.... [The book's] careful attention to the regional differences between two states as well as their varying economic and political experiences makes Finnegan’s work a worthwhile read and useful contribution.

South Carolina Historical Review

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