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Rough Justice

In this first national, cross-regional study of lynching and criminal justice, Michael J. Pfeifer investigates the pervasive and persistent commitment to "rough justice" that characterized rural and working class areas of most of the United States in the late nineteenth century. Defining rough justice as the harsh, informal, and often communal punishment of perceived criminal behavior, Pfeifer examines the influence of race, gender, and class on understandings of criminal justice and shows how they varied across regions. He argues that lynching only ended when 'rough justice" enthusiasts compromised with middle-class advocates of due process by revamping the death penalty into an efficient, technocratic, and highly racialized mechanism of retributive justice.
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The history of lynching's transformation from collective, popular violence to state_sanctioned, sanitized execution

About the Author

Michael J. Pfeifer teaches American history at the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.


"This beautifully written and extremely well-informed study is a landmark that elevates lynching scholarship to a whole new level...Pfeifer has written a book rich in suggestion and insight that succeeds in every way." Journal of American History "A landmark contribution to the literature on American violence and lynching in particular...No extant book on the subject even attempts what this one so deftly accomplishes." W. Fitzhugh Brundage, author of Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930

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