When we think of America's southern states where lynching and other racial injustices occurred, few people think of Florida. Somehow, in spite of damnWhen we think of America's southern states where lynching and other racial injustices occurred, few people think of Florida. Somehow, in spite of damning statistics, Florida has escaped much of the notoriety that has haunted states like Alabama or Mississippi. And yet, the flavour of white supremacy that flourished in Florida in the 20th-century was particularly brutal and extensive.
This book by Gilbert King is fantastic, an important and engaging window into the fight for justice in Groveland. I suppose you could call it historical non-fiction--with a bite!
The first book I read by King was The Execution of Willie Francis, the story of a black man in Louisiana who went to the electric chair twice. After finishing that book, I was already convinced of Gilbert King's genius. He writes non-fiction in a fresh, compelling way. So, when I eagerly picked up Devil in the Grove, I was initially confident I'd like it. However, as I began to read it, I started to wonder whether it might disappoint me.
It did take over half of this book convince me that Gilbert King has one-upped The Execution of Willie Francis--which, to be fair, is quite a tall task. The book won me over. King has produced a rip-roaring narrative, loaded with dramatic moments, and yet, it is conducted with the rigour of steady historical method. Not only does it move your emotions (it made me angry, outraged, sad, and I even laughed at a few points), but it is also highly informative and conveys an incredible amount of detail.
The book is centered on the efforts of NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall to exonerate four boys accused of rape, or at least spare them from execution. The "Good Ol' Boys" network was amazingly influential among law enforcement, judges, jury, and the general citizenry. As King repeatedly suggested, the line between the law enforcement and the KKK was a very, very fine line.
Along the way, we hear of the assassination of Henry T. Moore, and other bombings that consistently lead to no convictions. We meet a despicable Sheriff McCall, who seems to be the perfect stereotype of a Southern "Jim Crow" Sheriff. He proves to be quite capable of murdering defendants with impunity and, in his prejudice and lawlessness, he continued to supervise what could be justly called a "reign of terror".
Thurgood Marshall stands tall as an eloquent and courageous man who gives his all to fight against injustice. He was imperfect and, at times, frail and exhausted, but yet he had the tenacity of a bull dog. His fight in Florida was noteworthy, not only for his immediate effort, but also for the broader impact it had on the Civil Rights movement. The four Groveland boys stirred up a nation and the nationwide attention to the trial helped the NAACP raise funds and helped alert the country to the severe and systemic nature of racism in Florida and beyond.
I highly recommend this book and found it to be an amazing read, one that grew on me right up until the very last page! If you find the first half challenging, press on, the drama will likely draw you in....more
This was certainly one of the better books I've read in the past few years. It's the account of a white journalist from Texas who used medication to dThis was certainly one of the better books I've read in the past few years. It's the account of a white journalist from Texas who used medication to darken his skin and lived as a black man in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia in the 1950s.
The writing is excellent and conveys harrowing emotions and raises questions that are deep and a searching. What depths of depravity are revealed here when a white man, for a short time, has to see what a difference a change in skin color makes! It is simply amazing to get an account of a white man who is forced to, in some degree, come to grips with the realities that were previously only very abstract. Griffin documents both the attitudes and actions of both the black and white people who surrounded him.
John is forced to reassess his identity and privileges as he sees how much of a difference the color of his skin makes when it comes to his daily interactions in some of the Southern states. He also finds that when he "returns" to his true color, he never can quite see the world in the same way.
The book powerfully shows how racism not only corrupts those who espouse it but influences the thinking and self-perception of those who are targeted by it. White supremacy is revealed for what it is, a horrible and dehumanizing force which proceeds from the depths of a depraved culture. Many horrible incidents are reported, but even more so, systemic issues which underline cultural institutions are demonstrated.
However, it is far too easy to smugly look at the more explicit and outrageous incidents of racism and smugly pat ourselves on the back. The book helpfully shows how many of those who self-identify themselves as being more "enlightened" when it comes to racial issues still hold to some of the conceptions, assumptions, and outlooks which demonstrate that the racism is still there, just less explicit and perhaps softened a bit.
Obviously, in gaining a better understand of these matters, it it is necessary to get perspectives of those who suffered from racism their entire lives, for whom documenting the oppression was not merely an "experiment". However, such as it is, this book is a very valuable resource which ought to be read by anyone who wants to gain fresh insight on racial relations in the American South in the 1950s....more
The authors did an excellent job documenting the events surrounding the Cuban Revolution of the 1950's.
If there was a strong bias, I certainly didn'tThe authors did an excellent job documenting the events surrounding the Cuban Revolution of the 1950's.
If there was a strong bias, I certainly didn't notice it. The authors thread together many different events and stories to create a compelling work and they seem to do it with a high level of professionalism and fairness.
At times, I found it to be a little overwhelming. New individuals are introduced quickly and sometimes it is hard to keep up with the flow as the authors quickly switch between narratives. But even with that fault, I give it 5 stars because it is a surpurb book.
This book avoids abstractions and and avoids the temptation to over-focus on broad ideologies, and therefore is able to deliver a potent survey of what exactly was going on amoung Cubans when the revolution was fomenting and occuring. It is detail oriented, and hones down right to each important player in the revolution. ...more