Tarring and feathering  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Tarring and feathering is a physical punishment, used to enforce unofficial justice or revenge. It was used in feudal Europe and its colonies in the early modern period, as well as the early American frontier, mostly as a type of mob vengeance (compare Lynch law).

Metaphorical uses

The image of the tarred-and-feathered outlaw remains a metaphor for public humiliation many years after the practice became uncommon. To tar and feather someone can mean to punish or severely criticize that person.

Pop culture

  • In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Dauphin and the Duke are tarred, feathered, and ridden on a rail in Pikesville after performing the Royal Nonesuch to a crowd that Jim had forewarned about the rapscallions.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's humorous short story, "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether," features the staff of an insane asylum being tarred and feathered. A song based on the story, "(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether" is on the Tales of Mystery and Imagination album by the Alan Parsons Project.
  • In his 1982 Los Angeles Exhibition, the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibited the paintings Black Tar and Feathers, and Untitled (Yellow Tar and Feathers), the later a painting which scholar Richard Hoffman interprets as containing "young black heroic figures" and speaking of "a rising above the pain, suffering and degradation associated with the act of being “tarred and feathered.”"
  • The lead singer of rock band King Curt was tarred and feathered during their performance of the hit song "Destination Zululand" on Top Of The Pops in 1983.
  • Tar and feathering is mentioned in the chorus of the song "To Kingdom Come", from The Band's album Music from Big Pink.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Tarring and feathering" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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