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The 1898 lynching of Tom Johnson and Joe Kizer is retold in this groundbreaking book. Unlike other histories of lynching that rely on conventional historical records, this study focuses on the objects associated with the lynching, including newspaper articles, fragments of the victims' clothing, photographs, and souvenirs such as sticks from the hanging tree. This material culture approach uncovers how people tried to integrate the meaning of the lynching into their everyday lives through objects. These seemingly ordinary items are repositories for the comprehension, interpretation, and commemoration of racial violence and white supremacy. Elijah Gaddis showcases an approach to objects as materials of history and memory, insisting that we live in a world suffused with the material traces of racial violence, past and present.


‘Elijah Gaddis has written an incisive, probing history of the materiality of racial violence and its historical residue. In creatively reconstructing a double lynching in North Carolina, he has persuasively demonstrated how objects and things, if interrogated and contextualized thoroughly enough, can allow us to read more deeply into the freighted meanings of such tragedies.’

Claude A. Clegg III - author of Troubled Ground: A Tale of Murder, Lynching, and Reckoning in the New South

‘There are hundreds of lynching stories yet to be told, and all deserve to be told with care and creativity. In a crowded scholarly field, Elijah Gaddis has offered a singular contribution through his examination of artifacts associated with a double lynching that occurred at the height of North Carolina’s white supremacy campaign. Gaddis demonstrates, like none before him, how lynchers leave their mark on history, memory, and the everyday things left behind. A remarkable achievement.’

Jason Morgan Ward - author of Hanging Bridge: Racial Violence and America's Civil Rights Century

‘Gruesome Looking Objects offers a rich analysis of the material culture surrounding racist violence. Through a case study of one lynching, Gaddis deftly demonstrates how the ordinary objects used in and generated from a lynching served to normalize atrocity and embed it in everyday life. This is an innovative and smart book.’

Amy Louise Wood - author of Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940

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