Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

History

Date of Defense

4-23-2014

Graduate Advisor

Minsoo Kang

Committee

Minsoo Kang

Priscilla Dowden-White

Peter Acsay

Abstract

This thesis examines the creation and the perpetuation of the black rapist myth in Missouri at the turn of the century. It also explains the relationship between this myth, the practice of lynching, the popularized field of eugenics, and the long Civil Rights movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using criminal court cases from 1804 to 1900 and state prison records from 1871 to 1933 available at the Missouri State Archives in St. Louis, Missouri, newspaper articles from throughout the state, and Missouri’s history of lynching published by Harriet Frazier, I explain how the black rapist image was in fact a generated historical myth. I argue that the creation of the black rapist myth was a result of the post-emancipation construction of a sexualized racial caste system. This thesis will also show how the black rapist myth was shaped by racial relations in Missouri throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Additionally, I demonstrate how the black rapist myth established who had the authority to exercise control in Missouri.

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