Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching
ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN WOMEN FOR THE PREVENTION OF LYNCHING
ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN WOMEN FOR THE PREVENTION OF LYNCHING. Jessie Daniel Ames was the spark behind the formation of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL). Ames was a leader in a number of different organizations, including the Texas League of Women Voters, of which she was founding president in 1919. In 1930, she was the director of the Women's Work Committee of the Commission for Interracial Cooperation when the number of lynchings in the South spiked, although they were still lower than previous peak years.
Because of this alarming development, Ames called a conference on 1 November 1930 to explore the means for southern white women to stop lynching. Twenty-six women attended the conference and twelve formed the nucleus for the ASWPL. Most of the women were leaders in southern Protestant churches, frequently the heads of the women's missionary societies. The essential argument of the ASWPL, as articulated by Ames, was that the justification for lynching was false. Perpetrators claimed that they were defending the virtue of southern white women. Yet statistics that Ames gathered showed that only 29 percent of the 204 lynchings from 1922 to 1929 involved allegations of crimes against white women. The women's strategy was constantly to educate people about the fallacy of lynching's rationale. In addition, they engaged in action at the county level, where they enlisted existing organizations and lobbied local officeholders to prevent lynching before it happened. If a lynching did occur, they exposed the facts behind it to the wider world. The women obtained signatures on pledges to eradicate lynching. They considered county sheriffs the key to the prevention of lynching.
By 1938, the number of lynchings had fallen by 50 percent. In that year alone, sheriffs and police officers prevented forty lynchings. By 1939, 1,229 peace officers in fifteen states had signed the pledge and tens of thousands of other southerners, mostly women, had done so as well. In 1942, when Ames discontinued the organization, lynching was rare. Ames never supported a federal anti-lynching law, believing that such a statute would end local action and reduce her effectiveness.
Barber, Henry E. "The Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, 1930–1942." Phylon 34, no. 4 (December 1973): 378–89.
See alsoLynching .