It’s not just the pictures that are so disturbing about the lynching exhibit “Without Sanctuary.” It’s the inscriptions. Those little captions we write in our Facebook photos for our friends. Those cute phrases we use to sum up our experiences, to capture the moment, to cherish a memory.
In “Without Sanctuary,” a lynching photography exhibit on display at the Levine Museum of the New South, words are worth a thousand words. To be sure the photos, mostly postcards, of black bodies swinging from southern trees, bridges, light posts and anything else high enough to hang someone are disturbing. They are grotesque, and shameful reminders of the genocide we commonly refer to as Jim Crow. The photos are too painful to look at very long. I tried to escape the horribly imagery by reading the inscriptions, but the words drew me deeper into the inhumanity of it all.
There are photos like the one of Allen Brooks’ corpse hanging from an arch in Texas with the inscription: “All OK and would like to get a post from you. Bill, This was some Raw Bunch.”
Or the photo of corpses of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith which says “Bo pointn to his niga.”