In her book, My Soul Is a Witness: The Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching, Mari Crabtree, associate professor of African American studies at the College of Charleston, unearths how African American victims and survivors found ways to live through and beyond the horrors of lynching, offering a theory of African American collective trauma and memory rooted in the ironic spirit of the blues sensibility – a spirit of misdirection and cunning that blends joy and pain.
On this episode of Speaking of … College of Charleston, Crabtree sits down with Matthew Cressler, associate professor of religious studies, to talk about her book, which provides an intimate look at the aftermath of lynching as seen through the personal accounts of Black victims and survivors who lived through and overcame the trauma.
“I wanted my book to be kind of resting on the foundation of previous work (from the Equal Justice Initiative) and focus on stories of individual people, because those lives are the reason the numbers matter, ultimately, and that was something I didn’t want to lose,” says Crabtree. “That’s why I wanted to invite the reader into these particular communities, and kind of weave these communities, these stories, these families into the book. … I wanted people to feel the full weight, or as much of the weight as they could carry, of the personal side of these of these lynchings.”
Featured on This Episode:
Mari N. Crabtree is an associate professor of African American studies at the College of Charleston. Her research seeks to excavate Black life beyond the binary of suffering or resistance by exploring how culture provides a lens for understanding the struggle for Black liberation but also Black ingenuity, joy and love. Her book, My Soul Is a Witness: The Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching (Yale University Press, 2022), is part of the New Directions in Narrative History series. She also has published essays in Raritan: A Quarterly Review, Rethinking History, Contemporaries, Chronicle of Higher Education and elsewhere.
Matthew J. Cressler is an associate professor of religious studies at the College of Charleston. He is the author of Authentically Black and Truly Catholic: The Rise of Black Catholicism in the Great Migrations (NYU Press, 2017) and has written for America, The Atlantic, National Catholic Reporter, Religion News Service, The Revealer, Slate, U.S. Catholic and Zocalo Public Square. He is a member of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, a grassroots coalition of more than 30 congregations coming together to make the Lowcountry a place that is just and equitable for all.
Resources for This Episode:
My Soul Is a Witness: The Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching (Yale University Press, 2022)
Authentically Black and Truly Catholic: The Rise of Black Catholicism in the Great Migrations (NYU Press, 2017)