There is ample recent evidence to testify to the fact that, despite legal sanctions and moral rejection, police torture practices continue to exist in various countries. Use of torture by the US in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, in particular, demonstrates that the modern history of torture is by no means a history of its gradual disappearance.
Contemporary practices by US authorities have their antecedents in the hushed-up reality of torture in the American South between 1930 and 1955. Silvan Niedermeier has mined archival sources—some now used in historical research for the first time— as well as court records and press reporting to examine torture perpetrated against African-American prisoners and suspects in prisons, jails, and police stations in the Southern states. The author reconstructs attempts by Black defendants to make torture an issue during trials and retraces the campaigns of Afro-American civil rights organizations and federal authorities to end the torture of black suspects.
Torture is closely linked to structures that perpetuate discrimination and intolerance, to political cycles and shifting strategies and tropes of political legitimation. This study of the history of police torture in the Southern US offers insights that will help to answer a key question: what conditions and structures have made it possible for torture to continue to be practiced up to the present day?
I. Police Torture and »Legal« Lynch Murders in the American South
II. Torture and Afro-American Testimony in Court
III. The NAACP Campaign against »Forced Confessions«
IV. Torture as a Scandal: The Case of Quinter South
V. Federal Investigations of Torture in the American South