Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith

Aug. 7, 1930
Marion, Ind.
Inscribed in pencil on the inner, gray matte: "Bo pointn to his niga." On the yellowed outer matte: "klan 4th Joplin, Mo. 33." Flattened between the glass and double mattes are locks of the victims' hair.

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"Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America" was organized by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. All images courtesy of the National Center for Civil & Human Rights in Atlanta. The exhibit is current being presented by Autograph APB, on view at Rivington Place, London, until July 30, 2011.

Shipp and Smith

Aug. 7, 1930
Marion, Ind.

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The images from "Without Sanctuary" depict in graphic detail the brutal lynchings of as many as 4,000 black men and women between 1882 and 1968. Many of the bodies were mutilated, burned or tortured. Photographs from these incidents were turned into mass-produced postcards distributed through the mail, shared among friends and treasured in family photo albums.

A Dual Murder

The lynching of Laura Nelson and her son.
May 25, 1911
Okemah, Okla.
Etched in the negative: "1911 copy right, g.h. farnum, okemah. okla 2897."

Collector James Allen: " 'Without Sanctuary' is an unearthing of collective mass murder, of mass-memory graves excavated from the American conscience. Part postal cards, common as dirt; souvenirs skin-thin and fresh-tattooed proud; the trade cards of those assisting at ritual racial killings and other acts of a mad citizenry. The communities' best citizens lurking just outside the frame. Destined to decay, these few survivors of an original photo population of many thousands turn the living into pillars of salt."

Laura Nelson

May 25, 1911
Okemah, Okla.


Lawrence Nelson

May 25, 1911
Okemah, Okla.

An Anonymous Death

Unknown victim
Circa 1900
Unknown location

The bludgeoned body of an African-American male is propped up in a rocking chair, with blood-splattered clothes and white and dark paint applied to the face and head. Also visible is the shadow of a man using a rod to prop up the victim's head.

Lige Daniels

Aug. 3, 1920
Center, Texas
Onlookers, including young boys

Texas Postcard

The lynching of Lige Daniels, postcard reverse
Aug. 3, 1920
Center, Texas

Frank Embree

July 7, 1899
Fayette, Mo.

The Death of Frank Embree

July 7, 1899
Fayette, Mo.

Rubin Stacy

July 19, 1935
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Reverse of photograph inscribed, "Father is 5th from right … "

A South Georgia Murder

Unknown victim
Unknown date
Georgia
Two men on horseback at center of group, corpse in front of rider on the right

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Collector James Allen: "I believe the photographer was more than a perceptive spectator at lynchings. The photographic art played as signifcant a role in the ritual as torture or souvenir grabbing — a sort of two-dimensional biblical swine, a receptacle for a collective sinful self. Even dead, the victims were without sanctuary."