Cover for PFEIFER: Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947. Click for larger image

Rough Justice

Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947

The history of lynching’s transformation from collective, popular violence to state-sanctioned, sanitized execution

In this first national, cross-regional study of lynching and criminal justice, now in paperback, 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.


“This beautifully written and extremely well-informed study is a landmark that elevates lynching scholarlship 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 stimulating and valuable study, which effectively argues its premise."--The Historian

"In this thought-provoking, impressively researched, sweeping study of rough justice in the United States, Pfeifer expands the history of lynching and its transmutation from popular, ritualized collective violece to state-sanctioned, sanitized execution, that is, legal lynching."--American Studies

"Pfeifer's insight, both logical and incisive, shows how the American collective will revamped the notion of lynching into easily digestible solutions of state-mandated death by lethal injection and high voltage."--Black Issues Book Review

“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

"Pfeifer's insight, both logical and incisive, shows how the American collective will revamped the notion of lynching into easily digestible solutions of state-mandated death by lethal injection and high voltage."--Black Issues Book Review


Michael J. Pfeifer is an associate professor of history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, and the author of The Roots of Rough Justice: Origins of American Lynching.

To order online:
//www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/74hxp5ad9780252074059.html

To order by phone:
(800) 621-2736 (USA/Canada)
(773) 702-7000 (International)

Related Titles

previous book next book
Global Lynching and Collective Violence - Cover
Global Lynching and Collective Violence

Volume 1: Asia, Africa, and the Middle East

Edited by Michael J. Pfeifer

Global Lynching and Collective Violence - Cover
Global Lynching and Collective Violence

Volume 2: The Americas and Europe

Edited by Michael J. Pfeifer

Lynching Beyond Dixie - Cover
Lynching Beyond Dixie

American Mob Violence Outside the South

Edited by Michael J. Pfeifer

A History of the Ozarks, Volume 3 - Cover
A History of the Ozarks, Volume 3

The Ozarkers

Brooks Blevins

Shelter from the Machine - Cover
Shelter from the Machine

Homesteaders in the Age of Capitalism

Jason G. Strange

Crime and Punishment in the Jim Crow South - Cover
Crime and Punishment in the Jim Crow South

Edited by Amy Louise Wood and Natalie J. Ring

Freeing Charles - Cover
Freeing Charles

The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the Civil War

Scott Christianson

Ghost of the Ozarks - Cover
Ghost of the Ozarks

Murder and Memory in the Upland South

Brooks Blevins

Leaders of Their Race - Cover
Leaders of Their Race

Educating Black and White Women in the New South

Sarah H. Case

A History of the Ozarks, Volume 2 - Cover
A History of the Ozarks, Volume 2

The Conflicted Ozarks

Brooks Blevins

Hillbilly Hellraisers - Cover
Hillbilly Hellraisers

Federal Power and Populist Defiance in the Ozarks

J. Blake Perkins

Sex, Sickness, and Slavery - Cover
Sex, Sickness, and Slavery

Illness in the Antebellum South

Marli F. Weiner

Herndon's Informants - Cover
Herndon's Informants

Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln

Edited by Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis

Women of the Storm - Cover
Women of the Storm

Civic Activism after Hurricane Katrina

Emmanuel David

“Swing the Sickle for the Harvest Is Ripe” - Cover
“Swing the Sickle for the Harvest Is Ripe”

Gender and Slavery in Antebellum Georgia

Daina Ramey Berry