Rick H Kennerly Rick at MOUSEHERDER.COM
Sun Jul 21 17:49:57 UTC 2002

|o| That's a relief. Of course, that won't sway the
|o|         [beware; I feel a cranky rant coming on]
|o|  ignorant masses who prefer reinforcing their prejudices to, God forbid,
|o| learning something or dealing in facts, or their eager manipulators.
|o|         [That's off my chest. End rant.]

Well, I wouldn't go that far.  I think the jury is still out on the
question, not of the word's origin but on the word's usage.

After all, the Smithsonian magazine article in question begins with mention
of a touring photo exhibition called Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography
in America.  Now, I haven't seen this exhibition but from the archival
pictures I have seen from late 19th century American newspapers (and not
just southern newspapers--remember that Kokomo, Indiana, was home of the
second rising of the KKK), white folk picnicking at hangings in general and
black lynchings in particular was not uncommon, so it's not too much of a
leap of imagination to get from whites picnicking to picking a nigger to
lynch--or to at least associating picnics and lynchings in the minds of
blacks.  Certainly oral histories of elderly southerner--both black and
white in this particular case--like the one below from a special
presentation called Remembering Jim Crow, make the association between
whites picnicking and black lynchings, so it wasn't too long ago.


Interestingly, I imagine that there's a lot emotional truth in this new use
of Picnic, even if it's historically inaccurate.  Unfortunately, I also
imagine that it won't be long before we read lurid newspaper confessions
where, after a brutal murder, the group was out on a picnic.


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