Looking at the narrative accounts of mob violence produced by vigilantes and/or their advocates as "official" histories, Lisa Arellano shows how these non-fiction narratives conform to a common formula whose purpose is to legitimate frontier justice and lynching. In Vigilantes and Lynch Mobs, Arellano closely examines such narratives as well as the work of western historian and archivist Hubert Howe Bancroft, who was sympathetic to them and that of Ida B. Wells, who wrote in fierce opposition to lynching. Tracing the creation, maintenance, and circulation of dominant, alternative, and oppositional vigilante stories from the 19th century frontier through the Jim Crow South, she casts new light on the role of narrative in creating a knowable past. Demonstrating how these histories ennoble the actions of mobs and render their leaders and members as heroes, Arellano presents a persuasive account of lynching's power to create the conditions favourable to its own existence.
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Frontier Justice and Lynching Narrative