Republican Colorado State Representative Lori Saine took to the floor of the Colorado House on Friday to assert that whites and blacks have historically been lynched during the Reconstruction era in roughly equal numbers “for the crime of being Republican.”
A source Saine has cited for making her claim, Tuskegee University, did not begin recording lynchings until 1882 (five years after the Reconstruction era ended).
Lori Saine: “King would have been disappointed”
During consideration of a resolution to honor Dr Martin Luther King, Jr on Friday, Colorado House members took to the well of the House one-by-one to share their admiration for the civil rights leader.
Lori Saine began her tribute to Dr King with a very different message from rest, however, saying:
“Colleagues, we are standing in the moral arc of history today, as we celebrate a reverend who changed history for all Americans.
“We have come a long way on that arc since the Reconstruction, when whites and blacks alike were in nearly equal numbers lynched for the crime of being Republican.”
Saine went on to say that “Reverend King would have been disappointed with today’s identity politics,” and then used the occasion to claim that a fellow representative had been prevented from introducing her own resolution to honor King because she was white.
“My colleagues, how can you redeem your marginalized voice by marginalizing ours?” she asked.
The resolution being considered during Saine’s speech was introduced by Representatives Jovan Melton and Leslie Herod. They were using the occasion to also honor former Representative Wilma Webb, who led the cause to first declare MLK Day an official sate holiday in Colorado during the 1980s.
“There was no keeping anyone off this resolution,” Herod told the Denver Post.
Webb, who was present for the passage of the resolution, was given a standing ovation by legislators.
NAACP stats contradict Lori Saine
Leslie Herod also criticized Saine’s statistics on lynching. “I don’t know where she got her misleading and not factual information,” she said.
So far Saine has yet to provide a source which adequately backs up her claims. Records of lynchings during the Reconstruction Era, which ended in 1877, are scarce.
The History of Lynchings on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) official website only has firm statistics for a later period. What stats they do have generally run counter to Saine’s claim, however.
“From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black,” the site says.
The webpage also says that while lynchings of whites were more common in some states, including Colorado, these were mostly retributions for alleged murder and cattle theft.
“There really was no political link to the lynching of blacks in the South, and whites in the West,” it concludes.
Saine doubles down on lynching stats
Lori Saine defended her claims of roughly equal Reconstruction Era lynchings in the comments of a posted video of her speech made on her official Facebook page.
“Friends, if we can get this conversation going about our the real history and what actually happened during reconstruction, that will be just tremendous,” she said in one comment.
She also upped the ante on her original claim, saying whites were disproportionately targeted: “In the decade following reconstruction the best data available shows more whites lynched than blacks.”
Referring to the source of her data, she mentioned the “Tuskegee Institute” (a former name of Tuskegee University).
Problematically for Saine, Tuskegee University cannot be a source for Reconstruction Era lynching statistics because it did not begin recording lynchings until five years after Reconstruction ended.
As it says in the opening of the University’s exhaustive “Monroe Work Today Dataset Compilation”:
“Tuskegee Institute began counting lynchings from the year 1882. Today we know lynchings also occurred earlier than , but modern scholars have not yet uncovered all earlier cases everywhere. Only in some states does research exist for the period before 1881.”
The pre-1882 lynching stats from other sources included in the Monroe Work Today Dataset are all for non-Reconstruction states, like California and Iowa.
Mysterious Republican martyrs
Saine’s assertion that white and black Republicans were lynched for their party affiliation is also difficult to substantiate.
While the Reconstruction era Republican Party did advocate for freed slaves, and some whites may have been lynched for taking this stance, it would be difficult to establish if anyone was lynched for Republican Party membership per se.
The relevance of Saine’s claim is also unclear, as the ideology of the early Republican Party bears little or no resemblance to current current GOP policy.
This was recently demonstrated when President Trump publicly stated he would like to end the granting of citizenship to everyone born in the United States. If he followed through this would undermine the 14th Amendment – perhaps the Republican Party’s most important political accomplishment of the Reconstruction era.
Saine’s other controversies
Lori Saine’s contentious claim about lynching is not her first brush with a racially-charged controversy.
In August 2013, at meeting of the Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force, fellow Republican Colorado Rep Vikki Marble blamed widespread consumption of chicken for relatively lower life expectancy among African-Americans.
At the next meeting of the task force, Saine brought a box of Popeye’s friend chicken which she placed conspicuously on her desk.
According to KDVR television, one witness overheard Saine tell Marble that the chicken was a “silent protest” for the uproar that resulted from Marble’s comment.
Saine later denied any meaning behind her decision to sit with a box of fried chicken during the public meeting. Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call called Saine’s actions “insensitive and hurtful, and she must apologize for them.”
In December 2017, Saine was arrested for bringing a loaded handgun into Denver International Airport. Saine claimed she had forgotten the gun was in the bag, but did spend a night in jail before being released the next day.