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Lynching exhibit at Levine Museum of New South
Photographs on display Sept. 29-Dec. 31
Published Thursday, September 6, 2012
by Michaela L. Duckett

There was a period in American history where lynching was commonly considered a community event, drawing all ages and classes of people to witness – even celebrate – brutal violence.

This horrific chapter in time will be examined in a new exhibit “Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America” at Levine Museum of the New South Sept. 29 - Dec. 31.

“’Without Sanctuar’y certainly portrays one of the darkest, most painful chapters in southern and American history,” museum President Emily Zimmern said. “Our intent is not to dwell on this chapter, but to provide people a chance to learn and remember, and to feel empowered to stand up against bigotry and atrocity in the future. We hope visitors will view the exhibit without blame or guilt, and ask themselves: Who among us is without sanctuary today?”

The exhibit will contain approximately 70 images from a larger collection created by American antique collector James Allen, who spent more than 25 years gathering photographs and postcards taken from hangings and lynchings carried out by mobs.
Lynchings took place across the U.S., but most occurred in the South. According to the Levine Museum, nearly 5,000 people were executed between 1882 and 1968, and the vast majority were African-American men and boys.

Levine Museum officials expect “Without Sanctuary” to stir strong feelings in those who come to view it. Organizers say the exhibit recognizes the humanity of victims, educates visitors and acknowledge the atrocities indeed took place. It also promotes cross-cultural discussion that can bring healing and vigilance against bigotry and violence.

This retrospective will be brought home by a new section of the exhibit created by Levine Museum historian Tom Hanchett. A panel titled “It Happened Here: Carolina Lynchings” notes the more than 260 documented lynchings that occurred in North and South Carolina.  Three lynchings will be explored in depth: At Poplar Tent, N.C. (1898), Lake City, S.C. (1898) and Salisbury (1906). 

The Levine Museum’s installation of the exhibit will also include interactive experiences designed to help visitors process and reflect on the images and information presented.

"Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America" is organized by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center through the ownership of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The images and postcards have previously been exhibited in New York City, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Jackson, Miss., and most recently, Cincinnati, at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  The installation at Levine Museum will be the final location for “Without Sanctuary” as a traveling exhibit. Upon closing in Charlotte, it will be installed as a permanent exhibit at the new National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.


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