Whether it be lynching or legally-imposed capital punishment, the threat or use of death as a punishment has been a powerful means of class and race intimidation throughout American history. In the nineteenth century, statutes that explicitly considered race were not uncommon; in Virginia, for example, the statutes of 150 years ago listed five capital crimes for whites and 70 for black slaves. Today, historians interested in capital punishment use records of state compensations to slave owners to learn how many slaves were executed.


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