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.
The brutal actions of lynch mobs in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries cannot be explained by a focus upon a small set of depraved individuals. Cheering crowds and silent observers from all walks of life allowed mob leaders to do their work. This lecture explores a question very similar to that investigated by historians of World War II -- why did ordinary Germans participate or stand by during the Holocaust? The complex answer focuses on the role of culture and historical memory while also considering the role of individual leaders in shaping events.