Monday, September 15, 2008
Debunking Willie Lynch Letter
The William (or Willie) Lynch Speech (or Letter) is an address purportedly delivered by William Lynch to an audience on the bank of the James River in Virginia in 1712 regarding control of slaves within the colony.The letter purports to be a verbatim account of a short speech given by a slave owner, in which he tells other slave masters that he has discovered the "secret" to controlling enslaved Africans by setting them against one another.
The speaker, William Lynch, is said to have been a slaveowner in the West Indies, summoned to Virginia in 1712; in part due to several slave revolts in the area prior to his visit, and his alleged reputation of being an authoritarian and strict slaveowner.The text of the speech appeared on the internet as early as 1993, when a reference librarian at the University of Missouri–St. Louis posted the document on the library's Gopher server.
The librarian later revealed that she had obtained the document from the publisher of a local newspaper, The St. Louis Black Pages, in which the narrative had recently appeared The librarian elected to leave the document on the Gopher server, as she believed that "even as an inauthentic document, it says something about the former and current state of African America," but added a warning about the provenance of the document.
The text contains numerous anachronisms ("self-refueling", for example, since the word "refueling" dates only to the early twentieth century, or "fool proof", a word not attested until the early twentieth century). For these reasons, along with others, historian William Jelani Cobb of Spelman College believes that the Willie Lynch speech is an internet hoax.
Posted by Blog Moderator at Monday, September 15, 2008