Mob violence in the United States is usually associated with the southern lynch mobs who terrorized African Americans during the Jim Crow era. This book uncovers what is by contrast a neglected chapter in the story of American racial violence, the lynching of persons of Mexican origin or descent. Over eight decades lynch mobs murdered hundreds of Mexicans, mostly in the American Southwest. Racial prejudice, a lack of respect for local courts, and economic competition all fueled the actions of the mob. Sometimes it was ordinary citizens who committed these acts because of the alleged failure of the criminal justice system; other times the culprits were law enforcement officers themselves. Violence also occurred against the backdrop of continuing tensions along the border between the United States and Mexico aggravated by criminal raids, military escalation, and political revolution. Based on exhaustive research on both sides of the border, the first half of Forgotten Dead explores the characteristics and causes of mob violence against Mexicans across time and place.
The second half of the book relates the numerous acts of resistance by Mexicans including armed self-defense, crusading journalism, and lobbying by diplomats who pressured the United States to honor its rhetorical commitment to democracy. In reconstructing these stories, the authors provide detailed case studies and assess how Mexican lynching victims came in the minds of many Americans to be the "forgotten dead." The conclusion of the book also contains the first-ever inventory of Mexican victims of mob violence in the United States. With Latinos having an increasingly powerful influence on American public life, this book provides a timely account of their historical struggle for recognition of civil and human rights.