William D. Carrigan is a professor of history and the chair of the history department at Rowan University where, since 1999, he has taught over one hundred courses and thousands of students on such topics as the Civil War and Reconstruction, the American West, and the history of New Jersey. A native Texan, he is the author or editor of four books, including The Making of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836–1916 (2004). In collaboration with Clive Webb over the past decade, he has been studying the lynching of Mexicans in the United States. With the support of grants and fellowships from numerous institutions, including the Huntington Library, the National Science Foundation, and the Clements Center, they have published four essays on the subject as well as Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence against Mexicans in the United States, 1848-1928 (2013). Carrigan's research has been cited widely in the news media, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Nation, and the Houston Chronicle.
Mob violence in the United States is usually associated with the southern lynch mobs who terrorized African Americans during the Jim Crow era. This lecture, based on the co-authored book of the same name with Clive Webb, uncovers a comparatively neglected chapter in the story of American racial violence, the lynching of persons of Mexican origin or descent. Over eight decades lynch mobs murdered hundreds of Mexicans, mostly in the American Southwest. Racial prejudice, a lack of respect for local courts, and economic competition all fueled the actions of the mob. Sometimes ordinary citizens committed these acts because of the alleged failure of the criminal justice system; other times the culprits were law enforcement officers themselves. Violence also occurred against the backdrop of continuing tensions along the border between the United States and Mexico aggravated by criminal raids, military escalation, and political revolution. Through detailed case studies, the talk covers the characteristics and causes of mob violence against Mexicans across time and place and also relates the numerous acts of resistance by Mexicans, including armed self-defense, crusading journalism, and lobbying by diplomats who pressured the United States to honor its rhetorical commitment to democracy.