Cooks describes how she incorporates her personal experience viewing Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, a traveling exhibit from 2000 to 2005, in her art history and ethics studies classes. For the purpose of analysis alone, she divides the photographs into four categories: crowd, crowd with lynching victim(s), lynching victim(s) alone, and souvenirs. Students respond in speechless and somber disbelief when confronted with the shameless desire to document and openly celebrate the destruction of the human body. However, the lynching photographs (four of which are included in the essay) are a catalyst for a complex system of varied responses beyond the immediate paralyzing effect.

The history of lynching and the continued threat of racial violence are difficult subjects to teach, but the engagement with this history through lynching imagery and the exhibition history of Without Sanctuary has proven to be an important life experience for both Cooks and her students.

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