“A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday” – Dread Scott

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“A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday” (2015) was part of American artist Dread Scott’s exhibition of the same name, now waving outside the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York following the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. As Katherine Brooks reports for the Huffington Post, the flag brings back the banner that hung outside the headquarters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) between 1936 and 1938, which read “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday”. More of the work of Dread Scott on his website. Dread Scott’s name itself brings back to memory-history that of Dred Scott (1799 – 1858), the African American man who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom and that of his wife and two daughters in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1857.

This is a statement on the piece by Dread Scott: “The flag is an update on a banner that the NAACP used to hang outside of their national headquarters in N.Y. on 5th Ave. the day after someone was lynched. They used it during their anti-lynching campaign. During the Jim Crow era, Black people were terrorized by lynching ― often public and publicized extra legal torture and murder of Black people. It was a threat that hung over all Black people who knew that for any reason or no reason whatsoever you could be killed and the killers would never be brought to justice.

Now the police are playing the same role of terror that lynch mobs did at the turn of the century. It is threat that hangs over all Black people, that we can be killed by the police for no reason whatsoever ― for a traffic stop, for selling CDs, for selling cigarettes. Shot to death, choked to death, tased to death, driven to death. Standing still, fleeing. Shot in the chest, shot in the back. Hands up, hands down. Point blank range or at a distance. And the police never face justice for their crimes. It is a vivid concentration of the complete illegitimacy of this whole system is. Legal armed enforcers of relations of exploitation and oppression murder with impunity.

I made ‘A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday’ in response to the police murder of Walter Scott in South Carolina last year. It was an unfortunately necessary update to the NAACP sign then and it continues its relevance in this moment. It is a real testament to the moment and courage of galleries like Jack Shainman that are shifting gears quickly to display work like this. It is a trend that needs to spread if we are going to stop the police from continuing their epidemic of killing people, over 566 people this year so far.”