‘The Lynching Of Jube Benson’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Lynching Of Jube Benson by Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1904

The magic trick:

Telling the story of the murder of an African-American through the shameful point of view of one of the white men in the lynch mob

“The Lynching Of Jube Benson” is very much an African American story, but it’s also told very much through the eyes of White America. The introductory framing device – three rich white men trading stories in a personal library – may as well be Henry James or Edith Wharton.

The effect is interesting. The story of Jube’s unjust death is as awful as it awfully familiar. But the guilt and shame of the white storyteller – himself Jube’s former friend and eventual betrayer – provides an additional layer of tragedy. And that’s quite a trick on Dunbar’s part.

The selection:

“Why I grew to love him, love him, oh, yes, I loved him as well – oh, what am I saying? All human love and gratitude are damned poor things; excuse me, gentlemen, this isn’t a pleasant story. The truth is usually a nasty thing to stand.”

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