I am grateful to Claudine Ferrell for writing the introduction for this book. Claudine is a professor of history at the University of Mary Washington, where she has taught for more than 30 years. Her doctoral work at Rice University focused on lynching in the South.
One of the librarians at Mary Washington told me about her and suggested that I contact her. I had never met her, but I wrote in July 2014 and asked if she would be willing to read what I had written about the Shedrick Thompson case. To my surprise, she agreed and has been a friend to this project ever since. Recently I spoke to one of her classes at UMW and heard her encourage her students to make that “cold call” to the expert who might be able to help them in their research. There is a good chance that the expert will respond, she said. I thought, yes, that is exactly what happened to me.
After reading my work, Claudine suggested several changes, which I made, and she encouraged me that my research and writing were worthy of publication. When my editor at History Press asked if I knew a scholar versed in the topic of lynching who would write the introduction, I thought of Claudine.
In her introduction, Ferrell vividly describes the scope and nature of lynching in America: “Tens of thousands of mob members killed—by rope, gun, fire, knife, fist, and any other means at their disposal—thousands of alleged violators of the law and of social order. For three-quarters of a century, most members of the mob were white men—and even women and children—and most of the victims were black men—and even women and children. The alleged violations varied from murder, arson, and rape to speaking disrespectfully to a white man. Sometimes, the crime matched the statute books. Sometimes, the offender received a trial; sometimes, the trial provided a semblance of due process. All too often, the mob acted regardless of statute or court or fairness.”