The Willie Lynch Letter Could Have Been True

Black family with luggage during Great Migration
Shonda Buchanan
March 20, 2021

The infamous “Willie Lynch” letter, which detailed the cruel and torturous mental and physical abuse slave owners used to break down and dehumanize enslaved people, was NOT real. 

It was reportedly first published in the 1970s, and then spread by a reference librarian at a university. Despite its falsehood, many aspects of the letter described the truth.

The letter details cruel and violent things done to Black enslaved people to “condition” and control them, like attaching harnesses and horse bits onto their heads to “tame” them. This – as well as many other violent cruelties – did actually happen.

Researchers say the man named Willie Lynch never existed. But white enslavers DID share secrets amongst themselves about how they “controlled” their “property.”

The Lynch letter described purposeful mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual trauma as well as physical. From “buck breaking” to separating parents from children, this also happened – and we’re still recovering from the effects of this heinous institution. Dr. Joy DeGruy calls this “Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome.”

The Lynch letter isn’t real, but the conditions it described were. If anything, this reminds us of our peoples’ resilience – we can survive anything by continuing to work towards our own and our communities’ mental, physical and spiritual liberation!

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