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Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  3,796 ratings  ·  603 reviews
Devil in the Groveis the winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

Arguably the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century, Thurgood Marshall was on the verge of bringing the landmark suit Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court when he became embroiled in an explosive and deadly case that threatened to change the course of the
Hardcover, 434 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Harper
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I'm often struck, when reading a book about race in 20th-century America--Parting the Waters, say, or the amazing Warmth of Other Suns--by how many of the most horrifying, virulently racist events during the Jim Crow/Civil Rights eras took place in Florida. Growing up here in New York in the 1960s and '70s, for some reason (aka, marketing) I guess I still unconsciously associate Florida with Disneyworld, orange juice, and beaches--later: cocaine, gross nightclubs, Seinfeld's parents, stolen elec ...more
In the late 1940s in Lake County Florida, a seventeen year old girl claimed she was raped by four black men. She lied. Her accusations resulted in the torture, death, and imprisonment of men of color who were innocent of any crime. The county sheriff, his deputy, and many of the other citizens belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, an infamous organization of domestic terrorism. They held life and death power over unfortunate prisoners in the county jail. They held influence over the courts. Judges convi ...more
Geoffrey Benn
“Devil in the Grove,” by Gilbert King, is the 2013 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. It is also one of the most gripping and horrifying books I’ve read in a long time. The book tells the story of the Groveland Boys – four African-American men falsely accused of raping a young Florida woman. The story is that of how the NAACP, led by Thurgood Marshall, attempts to save the lives of the accused men. Their opponents are the entrenched white establishment of Lake county, led by S ...more
I had the misfortune of living in Lake Co., FL for nearly 20 years where this incident took place; I was there a couple of decades after the event, but it was still widely spoken of. Sheriff Willis McCall had god-like status in the area. Men would stand and take off their hats when he passed. The atmosphere was toxic. Well-researched book. Hard for me to read, having witnessed so much of the racism still there in the 1960's-1980's.
Margaret Sankey
This is a sadly typical southern case--a false rape accusation, lynching attempts, local good old boy sheriff, the city newspaper fanning the flames irresponsibly, local industry dependent on docile and obedient black workforce in the orange groves, all-white juries, local Klan chapters and victories that came in getting life sentences rather than the electric chair. In 1951, Thurgood Marshall and several other NAACP legal defense fund stars risked their lives to go to Florida and intervene, alt ...more
Enlightening! Easily one of the best books I have read this year. It is one thing to learn about the struggle against prejudice and inequality in a textbook, and it is quite another to FEEL as though you are LIVING it. Gilbert King is able to transport his readers back to a time which should not be forgotten. This book is hard to read, but even harder to put down.

King brings Thurgood Marshall to life in a way that I had never seen done before. While I knew that he had done monumental things on
I am well aware that Devil in the Grove has some flaws, but honestly I could never rate another book with 5 stars if I didn't give five stars to this book.

Gilbert King recounts the story of the Groveland "Boys", four black men falsely accused of rape in Florida in 1948. King backs up the story with detailed background information about the citrus industry in Florida, the Jim Crow South, the internal politics of the NAACP, the relationship of the NAACP to the FBI, Thurgood Marshall's other cases
Just won Pulitzer for nonfiction and much deserved. Riveting. Horrifying. Great research and insights into Thurgood Marshall during the fifties. The book bogged down a bit 3/4 of the way through....the legal issues in themselves aren't that interesting.
My version of a review. What I have thought and felt and experienced.

"Page 90
Gripping and horrifying, and I feel the truth."

07/4"Page 200
Institutionalized racism. The murder of The Groveland Boys, as they became known, took place in Florida, the south, in the late 1940s.

07/07 "page 300"
As I read I find myself questioning whether much has really changed in this country."

"In the postwar decade Florida would…prove to be a state with a boundless capacity for racial inhumanity, even by meas
It's always amazing to me to see how the Southern states continue to believe the Civil War was never fought. This is another case of 4 black men accused of raping a white woman, although the woman herself (17 at the time) showed no signs of rape, walked into a small restaurant in the early morning and told the owner's son, very calmly, that 4 men had abducted her but she couldn't identify them and that her husband might be lying out there dead.

Suffice it to say, 4 blacks, two of them Army vetera
This is a great read and a deep and deeply disturbing book. Author Gilbert King does a masterful job of highlighting a defining case in the life and career of Thurgood Marshall as well as an underappreciated episode in our national stuggle for civil and human rights. Along the way, readers are exposed to the full range of our humanity - from the unconscionably evil to the truly innocent and all gradations in between - as well as to the opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made as a soc ...more
This is an important book and well worth reading. I was somewhat disappointed in this book given that it had won the Pulitzer Prize for history. It was fascinating to read about Thurgood Marshall and the Civil Rights movement before MLK. There was a lot I didn't know about.

Reviews of the book suggest that it reads like a novel (think Hellhound on His Trail). This wasn't the case for me. The author often gets bogged down in descriptive tangents. Perhaps he had enough for two books and edited. But
To give this book anything less than four stars would be beyond me. Why do I seek these emotionally, kick my ass books out? I'm addicted to hard facts and truths, not romanticized bull, I suppose. This book was a vivid and detailed account of four Groveland black men that were falsely accused of rape by a white woman and the evil and horrors that spiraled over from these false accusations. This book made me immensely sad in a lot of parts, the horrors that mostly black men faced in the south was ...more
Reading like a great novel, Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King captures your attention by sending chills down your spine. And not just once. Case after case is presented in stark, horrifying detail, from the hair-raising attempts made on Thurgood Marshall and other NAACP lawyers to the lynchings, riots, and government corruption found throughout the south in the post-war Jim Crow years.
Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, in the 70's, I heard rumors of trouble, even at my own high school. But I
I moved to the south in 1977. Although there was a "show" of integration, Lubbock was then, and is now, a very racially divided city. While I will admit that many things have changed, court ordered integration of schools, city council, school board, etc is not "integration." Integration is when someone's race does not matter, just their qualifications, and court orders are not required to effect it. Well, it is obvious to me that if the laws were not in place, there would be much less integratio ...more
I don't read many new hardcovers as they are too expensive and my library usually has waiting lists for popular new releases. But I happened to be there when this was being catalogued and the librarian told me I had to read Devil in the Grove and Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken. I read Unbroken first and it was very good, but Devil in the Grove was so heartstopping I finished it in two days. Incredible book. Easily five stars and you will come away with such a profound respect for Thurgood Marshall ...more
Mireille Fry
I'm probably in the minority, but this is a really poorly written book on a fascinating combination of topics (The Groveland Case, Civil Rights, and Thurgood Marshall). The main problem is that the author can't seem to decide which topic to focus on, even within a chapter. There are so many loose threads of information started but never completed that I feel as though I've just unraveled one of the most intricately-woven tapestries of American history just by picking up the book.

Secondly, [mild
Exhausted. That is how I felt at the conclusion of this extremely well written examination of a portion of US history that few are aware of. By no means a "light" read, or "beach" read, but definitely a "must" read. You'll be astonished at how fluidly it reads. One might be tempted to proclaim it "reads like a novel". I would have to disagree. It doesn't read like a novel, it reads like a brilliant, brilliant piece of investigative journalism.
Derek Hunter
This is a very difficult book to share my feelings about. In essence, I should probably take time to allow my thoughts to truly formulate but nonetheless, here are my thoughts. As I read the book, each story of hatred, racism and violent acts done in the hands of white people throughout the South makes me angry at my own race. It makes me angry at Christians. Where were white Christians when this violence, hatred and racism was spewed from town to town? They were the ones doing it. But as I writ ...more
This was a timely read. I can't help relating the events in this story to the current humanitarian crisis in Ferguson, Missouri. While we have made progress in racial equality in the United States, we still have a long way to go. It is important to learn about the historical roots of racism. Prejudice runs deep in our national history.
A brilliant book. This details the real life 1949 ‘Groveland Boys’ case in central Florida, where four young black men were accused of rape (a death-penalty crime at the time) by a rural white teenage girl. With the deck stacked against them due to the period, location, and Jim Crow laws, the young men had basically no chance for vindication.

Enter the NAACP and Thurgood Marshall, the pre-eminent Civil Rights lawyer in the country. Marshall and his Legal Defense Fund staff had been incredibly bus
This book is going directly to my favorites shelf. Amazing read, really opened my eyes about how institutionalized racism was in the South. That Sheriff McCall could get away with so much for so long just baffles me. Thurgood Marshall was amazing. I'm defintely going to read more about him.
Linda C
So after I recommended this, a number of my GR friends added it to their TBR shelf. May I suggest moving this up high on the TBR shelf? This books is amazing.

I gave it five stars, which according to the GR star chart means that I loved it. That isn't exactly true because it is not a book that you can "love." But it is a book that will change the way that you look at the world, especially in light of the continued craziness in Florida. Even then, Florida was considered an outlier, "more South tha
This book was very informative and there were parts that were exciting. It was also well-written on a sentence level. It's obviously an important subject and the author made it very vivid. It's hard to know how to evaluate it - enjoyment isn't exactly the right scale. Reading about lynchings and the terrible violence against African-Americans in the Jim Crow South was really hard, and I'm torn about whether the author's choices in the beginning were effective or overkill. Similarly, the book bad ...more
It begins not long after WW II, though it had been going on long before. This is a book about hate on a psychotic level. A hate so institutionalized into society that its consequences seem an inevitable reality. It is hard to feel any kinship or good sense of nation with the god-ugly people involved in this true, shameful event. Four young black men, some veterans from WW II, framed for the rape of a white woman. It would be an automatic death penalty. This was a rape that never happened; with f ...more
Cindy Burke
Unbelievable true story of a "To Kill a Mockingbird" nature which takes place between 1949 to 1960, but the hero in this story is Thurgood Marshall. If I could pick a place to be a fly on the wall, I would want to witness him giving a closing argument to the all white jury, who had already pre-determined the guilt of the black defendant. The only evidence needed to convict a black man for rape of a white woman, with the sentence being death, was the word of the woman who claimed to be raped. Any ...more
Excellent book about the trial of 4 African Americans in the state of Florida on the charge that they had kidnapped and raped a 17 year old white girl. The sheriff, judges, and juries react exactly how you would imagine. The sheer brutality and injustice of segregation era south is staggering. The author makes the point several times that even when a juror might have thought the men were innocent they would never have been willing to acquit them. Partially this was due to the pressure friends an ...more
There is nothing pleasant about this book and the story presented about the Groveland Four. It is sad and frightening.

This is the story of four black men in Groveland Florida in the late forties who were wrongly accused of raping a white woman named Norma Padgett and the NAACP’s and Thurgood Marshall’s fight for their lives, their dignity and declaration of innocence. It is a mean ugly story about the plight of black people during the time of the Jim Crow laws; the state of Florida being one of
This fast-paced account of Thurgood Marshall, who was appointed to to the Supreme Court in 1967 by President Johnson, reports on Marshall's involvement in the civil rights movement, on the tension in racially divided 1940s Florida, and on an apparently corrupt sheriff in Lake County, Florida.

Gilbert King reveals information about the methods used by the New York offices of the Legal Defense Fund in New York City, about the FBI agents who investigated the case, and about the extraordinary work a
Mary Anne
Horrifying as well as mesmerizing, this book will remain in your thoughts for a long time. The Groveland Boys were 4 black men (2 of them WWII veterans) who were falsely accused of raping a white woman in a rural county in Florida in the 1940's. Looming over the action described in the book was a very evil sheriff. He stopped at nothing to make sure these men were convicted. No one who "crossed" the sheriff was safe from being murdered. In spite of Sheriff McCall and his cohorts, these trials, c ...more
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Ninjas Be Reading: future reading 10 34 Apr 22, 2013 11:32AM  
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  • Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution
  • Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age
  • The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832
  • Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights: 1919-1950
  • The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation
  • The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI
  • Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy
  • Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II
  • Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary
  • Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery
  • A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama's America
  • The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy
  • Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality
  • Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas
  • Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong
  • Contempt of Court: The Turn-Of-The-Century Lynching That Launched 100 Years of Federalism
  • At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68
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“They tried to make me say that I had been with the group of fellows that raped a white woman,” Shepherd said. “It was terrible the way I was whipped, there was just knots all over me. They said they were not going to stop whipping me until I said that I was the one. I kept telling them I was in Orlando where I was. Finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I said yes.” Shepherd said yes, he raped Norma Padgett, and the men dropped their hoses. Yates told Shepherd he could have “saved all the beating” if he had just said yes the first time they asked.” 0 likes
“Marshall also called upon the left-leaning Florida senator Claude Pepper to exert his influence in the case. Invoking patriotism, Marshall reminded the senator that the War Department had recently confirmed stories of American servicemen who had been tortured by the Japanese in Philippine prison camps and argued that the lynching of a fifteen-year-old boy would taint America’s international reputation: “the type of material that radio Tokio [sic] is constantly on the alert for and will use effectively in attempting to offset our very legitimate protest in respect to the handling of American citizens who unfortunately are prisoners of war.” Claude Pepper refused to get involved.” 0 likes
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