Synopses & Reviews
In this first national, cross-regional study of lynching and criminal justice, Michael J. Pfeifer investigates the pervasive and persistent commitment to "rough justice" that characterized rural and working class areas of most of the United States in the late nineteenth century. Defining rough justice as the harsh, informal, and often communal punishment of perceived criminal behavior, Pfeifer examines the influence of race, gender, and class on understandings of criminal justice and shows how they varied across regions. He argues that lynching only ended when 'rough justice" enthusiasts compromised with middle-class advocates of due process by revamping the death penalty into an efficient, technocratic, and highly racialized mechanism of retributive justice.
"In this thought-provoking, impressively researched, sweeping study of rough justice in the United States, Pfeifer expands the history of lynching and its transmutation from popular, ritualized collective violece to state-sanctioned, sanitized execution, that is, legal lynching."--American Studies