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A Litany of Remembrance

The rope believed to have bound the wrists of Raymond Byrd, who was lynched in Wythe County, Va., in 1926. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

A Litany for Remembrance

by Robert Hoch (October 24, 2019)

Adapted from Michele Norris, “So You Want to Talk About Lynching?” in the Washington Post (23 October 2019)

 

O God, we confess that we know too little about lynching.

 

A lynching involved a man or a woman, or sometimes a child, dragged from their homes, hauled out like lambs to be slaughtered.

 

O God, we confess that we know too little about lynching.

 

A lynching also involved a man (almost always a man) who had a rope or a rope that was ready with a noose. It had to be a coarse, heavy, corded rope.

 

O God, we confess that we know too little about lynching.

 

A lynching was an impulsive act, but the actual lynching itself took technique, skill; someone had to know how to find the tree suited to the work, a branch strong enough, high enough, to do the work.

 

O God, we confess that we know too little about lynching.

 

It took a lot of people to hold a lynching. Good people. People who taught Sunday School. People who looked the other way. Dedicated people. Nice people.

 

O God, we confess that we know too little about lynching.

 

According to the NAACP, 4,743 people were lynched in the United States from 1882 to 1968. 3,446 were black.

 

O God, we confess that we know too little about lynching.

 

No matter what, gravity always won.

 

O God, we confess that we know far too much about lynching.

 

Forgive us, O God, but not too quickly.

Forgive us, O God, but not too cheaply.

Forgive us, O God.

 

 

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