Historic Lynchings and Present-Day Voting: What's the Connection?


Jhacova Williams, Associate Economist

I was recently involved in a study that examined the extent to which historical lynchings could be linked to the contemporary voting behavior of Blacks. This study came about in 2016 when I was in graduate school and was shocked to learn that a few of my friends did not vote in the 2016 election. When I pushed them on why they didn't vote, I kept hearing the same thing: "I don't feel connected. I'm totally disconnected to this society." And I started to wonder why that might be the case.

As I started researching, I found that one reason why Blacks were lynched in the past was to suppress their vote. I find that areas that had a relatively higher number of lynchings, that Blacks are less likely to register in these areas and less likely to indicate that they voted in a recent election compared to their white counterparts.

It is important to understand the factors that affect Americans' voting behaviors so that we can identify the barriers that may prevent individuals from having their voices heard.

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