Unfortunately, lynching is as much an American symbol as applie pie. You don’t have to teach people about a noose, because even if someone doesn’t know the details, a noose’s meaning is embedded deep into America’s core. It’s an ugly part of our history that most want to ignore or forget. That is because lynchings were so prominent in America. In fact, nearly 5,000 African Americans were lynched in the United States between 1860 and 1890 alone. Lynchings continued to be used as a means of control and fear over blacks well into the 1900’s. We will never know exactly how many black men were murdered this way, since not all lynchings were even recorded.
Published by Drew G. I. Hart, PhD
Drew G. I. Hart is a theology professor in the Biblical & Religious Studies department at Messiah College with ten years of pastoral experience. Hart majored in Biblical Studies at Messiah College as an undergraduate student, he attained his M.Div. with an urban concentration from Missio Seminary in Philadelphia, and he received his Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Lutheran Theological Seminary-Philadelphia. Drew was born and raised in Norristown, Pa and has lived extensively in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA as well.
Dr. Hart’s dissertation research explored how Christian discipleship, as framed by Black theologies and contemporary Anabaptist theologies, gesture the Church towards untangling the forces of white supremacy and the inertia of western Christendom which have plagued its witness in society for too long. As two traditions that emerged from the underside of violent and oppressive western Christian societies, he found Black theology and Anabaptism each repeatedly turning to the particularity of Jesus in the gospel narratives. From that arises an ethic of solidarity with the oppressed and pursuing liberation in Black theology and an ethic of radical peacemaking and ecclesial nonconformity in the Anabaptist tradition. Each challenge the violent and oppressive logics of mainstream western Christianity and salvage the call to follow the way of Christ. Together in dialogue they deepen our analysis of the churches failures and the need for Jesus-shaped repentance.
His work beyond teaching and writing has included pastoring in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, working for an inner-city afterschool program for black and brown middle school boys, delivering lectures and leading anti-racism workshops, collaborating with local faith-based organizers and activists in his city, and doing a broad range of public theology. He is also a co-leader for a local Harrisburg faith-based relational network called FREE Together which has collaborated with POWER Interfaith, MILPA, the Shut Down Berks Detention Center movement, and a little with the Poor People’s Campaign.
Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart, has received great reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and Englewood Review of Books. Endorsing this resource, Shane Claiborne said, “This book is a gift from the heart of one of the sharpest young theologians in the United States. Hold it carefully, and allow it to transform you--and our blood-stained streets.” As a text, Trouble I’ve Seen utilizes personal and everyday stories, Jesus-shaped theological ethics, and anti-racism frameworks to transform the church’s understanding and social witness. Trouble I’ve Seen focuses on white supremacy as an overarching framework for understanding racism, with careful attention to its systemic and socializing dimensions. However, unlike sociology textbooks on the subject Dr. Hart also considers the subversive vocation of Jesus and the nonviolent yet revolutionary implications his life ought to have for his followers today.
His newest book project is entitled Who Will Be a Witness?: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance and will be published September 1, 2020. Who Will Be A Witness? invites the church to liberate its centuries long captivity to supremacist practices, and to expand its restricted political imagination in view of Jesus’ messianic reign. The book guides disciples of Jesus into joining God’s delivering presence through scriptural reasoning, historical reflection, practical theology for congregational life, social change theory, and the Christian call to love our neighbor. It is written for congregations, leaders, and students that understand that pursuing God’s justice goes way beyond waiting around for electoral seasons to come around. It is about the ongoing vocation of the Church right now, at the grassroots level, seeking after the wellbeing of their neighbors through faithful, strategic, and concrete action.
Drew recently joined the Inverse Podcast team serving as a cohost along with Australian peace activist Jarrod Mckenna. Together they interview interesting people and explore how scripture can turn our ethical imagination and the violent and unjust systems of our world upside-down, which contrasts with interpreting the Bible as a tool for the status quo.
Dr. Drew Hart was the recipient of bcmPEACE’s 2017 Peacemaker Award, a 2019 W.E.B. Dubois Award from a Disciples of Christ congregation, and in October 2019, Dr. Hart was chosen as Elizabethtown College’s 2019 Peace Fellow. Each award recognized him for his local and national justice work and public theology. You can find Drew Hart on Twitter and Facebook, or you can catch him as he travels and speaks regularly across the country to colleges, conferences, and churches. Drew and Renee, and their three boys (Micah, Dietrich, and Vincent) live in Harrisburg, PA and attend Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren.
View more posts
5 thoughts on “Lynching: An American Symbol”
We can’t forget these past events for the same reason we celebrate the 4th of July—its history. These are historical images that some want to simply erase but this is a record of this nation that I will pass down to my son along with an account of events like a man walking on the moon. We get so soft sometimes, so comfortable and we try to distance ourselves from reality and it smacks us in the face. These pictures are why guys like James Cone are still needed. They refresh our awareness because honestly we may believe that all of this is behind us simply because we have a black president.
Agreed, and the truth is both black AND white people need to pass/discuss these events down to the next generation, because until everyone acknowledges and faces up to our history we will never be able to truly move forward. James Cone is just as relevant now as he has ever been. Keep watch, I have a whole blog series set on lynching, that will drop each night. Thanks for sharing.
I figure you’re very familiar with the book Without Sanctuary which offers a disturbing collection of such photos. Not the least distrubing element of which are the expressions on the faces of some onlookers–like they’re watching public ‘entertainment’. Very unsettling.
I’m familiar with the book, although I do not own it… And I agree, it is disturbing to watch the onlookers as they watch and smile. Crazy thing is, many of those younger folks in those pictures are probably still alive. Thanks for your comment.
freestyle–regarding your observation that many of the youngsters in the photos are probably still alive–I had NOT considered that element at all. One has to wonder what their thoughts were/are about such visual memories.