Letter to the Editor


Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dear Spectrum:

We are writing to condemn the message of the anti-abortion protest that took place outside the Commons this week. In particular, we are disturbed by the equation of those who support women’s reproductive rights with those who lynched thousands of African American men and women in the 19th and 20th centuries. We do not condemn the protest itself; in fact, we believe that the right to peaceably assemble is one of the foundational rights of American citizenship. However, as historians, we feel it is imperative to speak out against this crass, uninformed and dangerous misuse of history.

From the end of the Civil War through the mid-20th century, white lynch mobs throughout the United States, although mostly in the South, deliberately and with extraordinary malice, terrorized and murdered African Americans under the pretense of “protecting” white womanhood from the supposed threat of rape by black men. Of course, this mock chivalry was just a ruse. Lynchers could not imagine a world in which a white woman might choose to love a black man, and no doubt some of those lynched were guilty only of crossing the South’s prohibition against consensual interracial sex. Others were simply guilty of owning their own land or trying to make a way for their families. Regardless, all of them paid the price for the white South's brutal effort to control not only black bodies but white female ones, as well.

The inability to see women as capable of making decisions about their own sexuality. The use of violent, inaccurate, and misleading imagery. The pretense of protection. Anti-abortion protesters appear to have a lot in common with those who supported lynching.

We applaud vigorous, thoughtful debate and protest. It is the lifeblood of democracy. However, this kind of political action requires much deliberation, which unfortunately was missing from yesterday's anti-abortion protest. If students wish to learn more about the history of racial and sexual violence, including lynching, we welcome them to take any of our classes.


Susan Cahn, Professor of History

Carole Emberton, Assistant Professor of History

Theresa Runstedtler, Assistant Professor of American Studies

Lakisha Simmons, Assistant Professor of Global Gender Studies

Victoria Wolcott, Professor of History

Jason Young, Associate Professor of History


Mon May 6 2013 09:07
One need only contact Ayesha Kreutz of the Frederick Douglass Foundation Of New York (www.FDFNY.org) to get the real story of US politicians and religious leaders sharing information on how to deal with freed negroes.
UB needs more oversight of their faculty adhering to "Core Learning Outcomes for the UB Student", rather than bringing peaceful student protesters up on charges.
Sat Apr 20 2013 23:24
Many will applaud the bravery of those who show realistic images of war, the Holocaust, and yes, even lynchings, as shining a necessary light on a painful reality. How is this different? It is reality! If it is so gruesome, and indeed it is, then change it! Don't allow lynchings, and don't allow babies to be dissected alive! By the way, I respect your educational status, but if F*** is part of your vocabulary, your verbal skills are woefully lacking and I would not want you as a professor.
Thu Apr 18 2013 18:10
Whether you agree with the pro-life position or not, the professors' comparison of these students to lynch mobs is offensive. As for the accuracy of their images, anyone who works in an abortion clinic will tell you that the photos of the body parts of babies is accurate. Abortion clinic workers have to ensure that they have assembled all the parts of the fetus lest body parts remain in the uterus and cause infection or worse. All you have to do is read the grand jury report from the Pennsylvania trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell to know that the photos are accurate. The grand jury testimony describes body parts of babies improperly stored around the clinic, and also highlights botched abortions where Gosnell left parts of the baby in the mother. To suggest that college students and adults should not see pictures of the results of abortion before choosing whether or not to support it is an affront to the idea of a university as a place for open and honest debate. These professors' offensive attack suggests that they have something to hide or some degree of uncomfortableness with their position. If abortion is not problematic, then there should be no issue with seeing these pictures. If abortion is problematic but should be supported anyway, one should realize the reality of what one is supporting and have the courage to face it. As for the professors' accusations that the students of the pro-life group have a problematic disposition toward women, equivalent to the disgusting attitudes of yore that saw women as property, well, it is abundantly clear from news reports that these students proceed from a sincere attitude of good will and a genuine concern that unborn children's rights (men AND women) are being violated. Judging by their quotes, I rather imagine that if you talked to them, it would be quite obvious that their attitude toward women in difficult situations would be supportive and helpful. Everyone is free to disagree with them, but to associate clearly sincere and concerned individuals with vicious attitudes and crimes is offensive and should be below the dignity of these professors. It is character assassination, not intellectual and philosophical debate on the merits of the action involved in abortion.
Thu Apr 18 2013 09:44
That deranged history professor leaves out one simple but pertinent fact. Democrats were the party involved in lynchings and against anti-slavery efforts by REPUBLICANS. If these professors cared about African American women they would stand up to protect the unborn AFRICAN AMERICAN women being disposed of by the thousands by DEMOCRATS on a daily basis (antiatty@gmail.com)
Brianna Standish
Thu Apr 18 2013 06:36
I could not be more proud to be a history student that has had firsthand experience in taking courses with these professors.

If you're going to cite history, makes sure that it's correct first. Nothing makes actions appear more unimportant and irrelevant than the improper usage of information. Proper research is key to protesting. Regardless of your cause.

A slow clap is in order, UB history professors, very well said.

Wed Apr 17 2013 12:56
Define 'holocaust' - Destruction or slaughter on a mass scale.
Define 'genocide' - The deliberate killing of a large group of people, esp. those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

What is abortion if not a holocaust? If not genocide? Over 50 million dead in 40 years? What about the fact that the majority of those children whose lives are taken are a minority group? Planned Parenthood itself reported that its abortions on minorities in 1991 were 42.7% of its total abortions.

The comparison was not inaccurate or misleading. It's factual and real. If you're going to be pro-choice, at least own the actions you allow to happen.

Wed Apr 17 2013 10:42
I suggest the above commenter register for an English class because you basically misread the entire article.
Wed Apr 17 2013 06:03
Some how I doubt any of your classes are unbiased or even historically accurate. Progressive historical revisionism is more like it. This intellectually weak attempt to equate pro-life demonstrators as the modern equivalent of lynch mobs for peacefully assembling while at the same time claiming to support free speech is not surprising and seems to be par for course from Americas entrenched liberal academics.

If you want to talk about racism, perhaps you should talk about Margret Sanger, the creation and founding principles of Planned Parenthood, eugenics, and the fact that most Planned Parenthood locations are in low income, minority communities and specifically target Black and Hispanic communities.

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