Investigation Ongoing Into Black Man Found Hanging In Mississippi04:53
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A memorial to three lynching victims in Duluth, Minn. The discovery of a black man hanging from a tree in rural Mississippi has raised the specter of lynching. Authorities have not yet determined the cause of death, but are actively investigating. (artstuffmatters/Flickr)MoreCloseclosemore
A memorial to three lynching victims in Duluth, Minn. The discovery of a black man hanging from a tree in rural Mississippi has raised the specter of lynching. Authorities have not yet determined the cause of death, but are actively investigating. (artstuffmatters/Flickr)

Federal and state authorities are investigating the hanging death of a black man in Claiborne County, Mississippi.

The investigation involves the FBI, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the United States attorney's office. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is also involved.

An FBI official says the cause of death has not been determined, and authorities aren't sure if it was a homicide or a suicide.

The Mississippi NAACP has identified the man as 54-year-old Otis Byrd, who had been reported missing two weeks earlier by his family. The NAACP is urging authorities to find out whether the death is a hate crime.

A Mississippi sheriff said Friday that the man did not appear to have stepped off of anything before he died.

The discovery raises the specter of lynching.

Tuskegee University archivist Dana Chandler joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss the history of lynching.

The university keeps an extensive archive of the lynchings that have occurred in the United States. Chandler says Tuskegee has 4,743 lynchings on record. A total of 1,297 white people were victims, 3,446 were black.

"Lynching is not just being hung by the neck," Chandler said. "It goes far beyond that. It's other acts of murder and killing. But it goes even further than that: It is a way that the population was controlled. If someone was lynched in a particular neighborhood or community, it acted as a way to keep people under the thumb of Jim Crow laws. And they were terrified. And what you had was a psychological lynching."

Guest

This segment aired on March 20, 2015.

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