The exact number of Black people killed by lynchings in the United States is difficult to know. Historians acknowledge that these deaths are vastly undercounted but the Equal Justice Initiative estimates 4,084 racial terror lynchings took in twelve southern states between 1877 to 1950, and another 300 outside of them.
While the United States tries to behave as if lynchings are a thing of the past, the very public, and often brutal, murders of Black people continue today. Some may call them “modern day lynchings” and others will argue that lynchings are already modern; that there is nothing inherently “past” about them. Either way, the February murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia aligns with lynching’s violent legacy.
Former Glynn County Police Department officer Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, allegedly stalked Arbery during his usual jog through a suburban neighborhood. The two say they believed he was connected to local break-ins (these claims were not substantiated). During a confrontation, Arbery was shot and killed. It took two months and a leaked video for the shooting to gain national attention.