Vigilantes and Lynch Mobs

Narratives of Community and Nation

Lisa Arellano
Book Cover

PB: $28.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0845-7
Publication: Jul 12

HC: $81.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-0844-0
Publication: Jul 12

Ebook: $28.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0846-4
Publication: Jul 12

204 pages
6 x 9
1 tables, 2 halftones

Vigilantes and lynch mobs not only usurped the authority of the law, they shaped the histories of their actions.

Read an excerpt from the Introduction (pdf).


Looking at the narrative accounts of mob violence produced by vigilantes and their advocates as "official" histories, Lisa Arellano shows how these nonfiction narratives conformed to a common formula whose purpose was 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 nineteenth-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 ennobled the actions of mobs and rendered their leaders and members as heroes, Arellano presents a persuasive account of lynching's power to create the conditions favorable to its own existence.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction: History, Memory, and Narrative 1. From Street Brawls to Heroism: The Official Vigilante Histories 2. Heroic Stories: Vigilante Ideals and Lynching Truths 3. John/the Victim/the Heathen: Hubert Howe Bancroft and the Making of Western History 4. Narrative Revisions and the End of the Vigilante Ideal Conclusion: Living in, and with, the Past Appendix A: Official Vigilante Histories Appendix B: The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft Appendix C: Vigilance Committee Interviews Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author(s)

Lisa Arellano is Associate Professor of American Studies and Assistant Professor and Director of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Colby College.