In the South, the Civil War was followed by 12 bloody years in which black Americans' hopes of taking part in democracy were brutally crushed, according to a new report from the Equal Justice Initiative. The report documents more than 2,000 lynchings during the Reconstruction period and estimates that the true toll is likely far higher, reports the New York Times. The initiative previously documented more than 4,500 lynchings between 1877 and 1950, but its report notes that the rate of killing was much higher between 1865 and 1877—and the targets were often black elected officials or activists, including Jack Dupree, the president of a political club in Mississippi, who was dragged from his home and disemboweled by a group of Klansmen.
The report says the violence, often enthusiastically supported by local officials, helped white Southerners establish a "regime of white supremacy and Black disenfranchisement," per the Washington Post. "Emboldened Confederate veterans and former enslavers organized a reign of terror that effectively nullified constitutional amendments designed to provide Black people with equal protection and the right to vote," the report says. Bryan Stevenson, the initiative's founder, tells the Times that Reconstruction was "the really critical moment" that led to "nearly a century of racial terror"—and it has been overlooked for too long. "It’s important that we quantify and document violence," he says. "But what’s more important is that we acknowledge that we have not been honest about who we are, and about how we came to this moment." (Read more lynchings stories.)