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

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  11,081 ratings  ·  1,460 reviews
Devil in the Grove, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, is a gripping true story of racism, murder, rape, and the law. It brings to light one of the most dramatic court cases in American history, and offers a rare and revealing portrait of Thurgood Marshall that the world has never seen before.

As Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns did for the stor
Hardcover, 434 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Harper
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Joan Wieber Ruth Starr was my husband's aunt and yes, she was Mayor of Holly Hill. She moved to the Daytona area in 1949. Sadly, she, her husband and son have all…moreRuth Starr was my husband's aunt and yes, she was Mayor of Holly Hill. She moved to the Daytona area in 1949. Sadly, she, her husband and son have all died.
By coincidence, I finished the book about a week ago and had no idea about the letter until I finished the book. I think I kept repeating, WOW!
Gilbert King is going to be speaking in our area in a couple of weeks and we going to take Ruth's sister to hear him.
Hal Issen I think most High School students could handle it, and even advanced Middle Schoolers. It is not terribly long for the subject, and the action moves a…moreI think most High School students could handle it, and even advanced Middle Schoolers. It is not terribly long for the subject, and the action moves along pretty rapidly. I think many High School students would find it engaging and even stirring.(less)

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Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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. ...more
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Florida. The Sunshine State. Miami Beach. Disney World. Home to oranges, manatees, hibiscuses, and countless retirees who make the state their new year round or winter residence. With a southern tri-county region that has become home to a myriad of Latinos, and Northeastern corridor transplants, when I have visited family and friends over the years I do not feel I am in the south, as I would in Tennessee or Georgia. Yet, Florida, especially the northern and central sections is just as southern a ...more
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Newsflash (January 2019), on the cover of today's Washington Post, a great excuse to read this book if you haven't done so yet:

Quite simply, one of those books everyone (or "more people") should read, and I'm sorry it took me so long to find it. An important story well researched and told. And a well deserved award/accolade winner, an extraordinary piece of history, a powerful summary of a deeply troubling, disturbing, unnerving, ugly, place and time, and
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
King delivers a superbly written narrative of four black men accused of raping a white woman in the 1940s rural south. Lake County Florida, an area dominated by citrus groves that relied on poor blacks to do the picking, was dominated by a stereotypical racist sheriff and the KKK. Any thought that the men would receive a fair trial was ludicrous. Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP decided to take up their cause. There would be many twists and turns as trials and appeals ensued. The demonical sherif ...more
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
I knew practically nothing about Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) when I began this book. He may be considered a forerunner of the American Civil Rights Movement. The book is not a biography. It does not cover his entire life. It speaks of his marriage and family, but not in great detail. It is a book about his career, his goals and beliefs, and in particular his involvement in the Groveland Boys Case. In Florida 1949, a seventeen-year-old white girl claimed four Blacks raped her. The case went to ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction 2013. Thurgood Marshall deserves a monument in Washington D.C. for what he did to set legal precedents dismantling segregation and Jim Crow laws. He won 29 of 32 cases before the Supreme Court, later becoming a Supreme Court Justice himself. He believed in the nation and in the law.

The ‘devil’ was one Willis V. McCall, the violent sheriff of Lake County in Florida. Not only did he let the Ku Klux Klan do as they liked, he brutally beat suspects and even murdered som
Judith E
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Thurgood Marshall was larger than life. With a brilliant mind and enviable leadership skills, Mr. Thurgood took on the Jim Crow judicial system of the American South. Through his immense constitutional knowledge and commitment to it, he argued cases before the Supreme Court (eventually becoming the first black Supreme Court Justice), while leading the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. His principled choice of cases was to “look at the person beyond the color” and to look at the merits of the case.

Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave 'Devil in the Grove' 4 stars, but if I had a bit more rating leeway, I would have given some parts 3 stars, some 3.5 and some 4.5. The book is sort of like a record album where you love 5 songs, like 3 and are "meh" about 2 of them.

Devil in the Grove is a nonfiction book written in novel form, and it covers a lot of ground. It's main theme involves the efforts of Thurgood Marshall and other NAACP attorneys (along with some private lawyers) to defend three young black men accused of rape b
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
Joy D
Groveland is a small town in Lake County, Florida, about 30 miles west of Orlando. In 1949, a seventeen-year-old white woman accused four black men of rape. In this narrative non-fiction, Gilbert King tells the story of the Groveland Four. He explains how the NAACP’s Legal Defense team, led by Thurgood Marshall, became involved in upholding the civil rights of these men at a time of rampant racism in the Jim Crow South.

The author provides a well-written, comprehensive account of the case, impar
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many moons ago, I had the opportunity to sit in the visitors' gallery at the U.S. Supreme Court building while they were in session. I was taking a class at my university, and our professor arranged it. Anyway, I remember watching Justice Thurgood Marshall on the bench. I've always wanted to learn more about the great justice. This historical account does a good job of satisfying my curiosity. It describes the case of four black youths falsely accused of raping a white girl in 1950s Florida. Nee ...more
Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King was winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2013. The book is a riveting examination of race relations in Florida at the height of the struggle for civil rights where the power of the embittered Ku Klux Klan and the lynching of blacks was not uncommon. It was at this time that Thurgood Marshall in working or NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was close to bringing the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education ...more
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Anta Mireille
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
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This deserved its Pulitzer. King brings together, in a clear narrative, a large cast of characters, the social and political climate of an era, the appalling institutional racism and violence perpetrated against African Americans, and the heroic work for civil rights. This account of four Black men falsely accused of raping a white girl in rural Florida is an example of microhistory that illuminated the history of a nation. I can’t imagine trying to survive in a culture of such brutality, injust ...more
Riveting, infuriating and a little depressing. Reading about the uphill climbs for justice in America a little more than 60 years ago. Flagrant disregard and devaluing of people. The notion of bullies w/ the full, crazed and deputized forces of the KKK to terrorize black people. Timely because maybe historically the events are not the same, but the results are. If we do not learn the lessons of history, we are doomed to repeat it over and over and over. It may not be the KKK now, but this groupt ...more
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Brutally honest account of a reign of terror in central Florida.
Well-researched and very accessible to read - talks not just to big players but also to the lesser known heroes. Focus on the Groveland incident but also seamlessly informs on the broader events in Florida and the United States.

A MUST read for all interested in American history.
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Devil in the Grove” won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. Gilbert King did a lot of research to write the story; he goes into painstaking detail about the tactics used by Thurgood Marshall (future Supreme Court Judge) and his co-NAACP attorney Franklin Williams to chip away at the foundations of the Jim Crow Law. He documents in detail the reign of terror conducted in Lake County by the KKK and Sheriff Willis McCall who is portrayed as a ruthless brutal man. The book is about four black ...more
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Evaluation: This is a book that should be required reading. This horrifying, edge-of-your-seat tale really happened, and not that long ago. Its repercussions helped make the country what it is today. The author, who unearthed FBI files under seal for sixty years, has done an outstanding job in telling this story which manages to be heart-breaking, inspiring, infuriating, and admirable all at once.
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Roxanne Russell
Any book about the South and the experience of African-Americans is going to be difficult to read. However, I felt some personal growth in my ability to engage with this story. As a Southern white woman, I've always cringed so deeply in disgust and shame at the behavior of Southern whites that I think it has often clouded my ability to get past the horror to see the amazing feats of the heroes in these stories. As I read Devil in the Grove, I felt more uplifted by the courage and integrity of th ...more
Jul 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Gilbert Anthony King is an American writer and photographer.


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