Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Violence, as many historians have pointed out, is an American tradition (Friedman 1993: 175; Gurr 1989). Deeply embedded in the history of violence are the actions of vigilante groups and individuals, most of which are the stuff of romantic and popular mythology. In order to sort the myth from the reality and to understand the spirit and tradition of vigilantism in the United States, the concept must first be defined. Richard Brown (1975: 95–96) provides one of the most widely accepted definitions of vigilantism: “organized, extralegal movements, the members of which take the law into their own hands.” More recently, some historians have taken a broader view of vigilantism by linking it directly to hate crimes and political motives. The following definition reinforces this view and is used to frame this discussion of vigilantism: Vigilantism occurs when persons take the law into their own hands by intimidating, threatening, injuring, or ...