As a Weapon

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The dark stillness of night envelopes and cushions us. It draws us into ourselves and close to our loved ones. But comfort turns to horror in a heartbeat when the night becomes weaponized - used by bullies to terrorize and control, allowing the cowardly perpetrator to hide in the shadows and evade detection or identification. This is the most ominous embodiment of the night. Its most salient symbols are those of burning crosses, and the nightriders delivering their messages of terror.



Vanessa Lowe


Vanessa Lowe

Music: Nocturne theme music by Kent Sparling
Additional music: Kent Sparling \\  Jeffrey Foster  \\ Kid Otter

Producer: Vanessa Lowe
Episode artwork: Robin Galante 

Other Credits:
Rebecca Carroll consulted on this episode. Nick White was our editor. Special thanks to Anne-Ellice Parker for early consultation.

The poem, “Incident”, was written and read by Natasha Trethewey. Thank you to Sanford Jeames, Cheryl and Carlton, and Clint Smith for sharing their family stories. Thanks to Kimberly Russell.

Kidada Williams is a writer and historian who studies what happened to African American survivors of racist violence. Her writings include, “Never Get Over It: What Night-riding Meant to African American Families,” in Reconstruction and the Arc of Racial (in)Justice (2018).

David Cunningham is a professor of sociology at Washington State University. His writings include, Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan.

We highly recommend The 1619 Project, from The New York Times.  It is both a written work, and a podcast, which “aims to correct the record, reframing the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”

Reports of Congressional hearings mentioned in this episode are  available online. The 13 volumes, made in 1872, comprise the reports and testimonies from the Congressional committee that investigated the Ku Klux Klan and other insurrectionary movements in the former Confederacy after the close of the Civil War. Report of the Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States