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

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  8,603 ratings  ·  1,148 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
Paperback, 464 pages
Published February 19th 2013 by Harper Perennial (first published March 6th 2012)
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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.
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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.
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
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, favorites
This was SO. GOOD.
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
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
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 meas
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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.
Kristy Miller
In 1948, a 17-year-old white woman, Norma Padgett, accused four young black men in Groveland, Florida of raping her. They were Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin. Thomas is killed trying to evade capture, but the other three are arrested and at the mercy of the ruthless and deadly Sheriff Willis McCall. The case attracts the attention of the NAACP, and the hotshot attorney leading the Legal Defense Fund, Thurgood Marshall.

This book covers a lot of ground. the firs
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

This book was so hard it read. So many people committed horrendous acts because of racial hatred. The injustices this book talks about made me cry and they made me livid that these kinds of things were allowed to happen in our country.

This quote from the book accurately portrays how I was feeling during a lot of my time reading this...

"Our whole country stands blackened and discredited in the eyes of the world because of Florida's failure to protect the lives and liberties of all her ci
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
Tessa in Mid-Michigan
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
Sara Van Dyck
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
What a horrifying, frightening, book, yet one that offers a glimmer of hope. I was of course appalled at the racism, violence, and corruption in Florida in the 1940s and early 1950s. But what few reviewers have focused on is that it illustrates how change can occur, even if slowly and painfully. Marshall spoke for his profession when he wrote: “Laws not only provide concrete benefits, they can even change the hearts of men – some men, anyhow – for good or evil.”

King shows other ways attitudes t
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
This is not a biography of Thurgood Marshall. In many ways, it is a study of one case during the years after WW II and before Brown. King includes infromation about other cases, showcasing that there are names we should know besides Till.

King also looks at all the players in the Groveland and in particular, the effect of Marshall upon them. In many ways, that is the most intersting part of the book.
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  • Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned
  • Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution
  • The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation
  • Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary
  • Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age
  • Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II
  • Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy
  • The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI
  • At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America
  • The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832
  • Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality
  • Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution
  • Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism
  • Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63
  • A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America
  • There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975
Gilbert Anthony King is an American writer and photographer.

“There is a law governing the meeting of the races. When a powerful race meets a helpless race, two things happen. First, there is a carnival of crime. Cruelty and oppression take place: some men in each race become hard-hearted. But the reverse also happens thereafter; goodness and mercy are developed; certain men become saints and heroes. —John Jay Chapman, The” 4 likes
“After World War I, dozens of Negro soldiers had been lynched in the South, some of them still wearing their uniforms, and in the summer of 1946 the lynchings of black veterans resumed with a vengeance.” 3 likes
More quotes…