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The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,502 ratings  ·  205 reviews
The New York Times bestselling author of The Kennedy Women chronicles the powerful and spellbinding true story of a brutal race-based killing in 1981 and subsequent trials that undid one of the most pernicious organizations in American history—the Ku Klux Klan.

On a Friday night in March 1981 Henry Hays and James Knowles scoured the streets of Mobile in their car, hunting f
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published June 7th 2016 by William Morrow (first published May 31st 2016)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  1,502 ratings  ·  205 reviews

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Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
America's race wars seem to be on the rise again, as the general populace is asked to reaffirm that certain lives matter. While the imagery is horrible and the bloodshed excessive, it pales in comparison to some of the clashes that became weekly occurrences in the South for decades. The Civil War sought to rectify some of these issues, but only exacerbated them, allowing the rise of white supremacy in its many forms, the most prevalent and wide-spread being the Ku Klux Klan. Leamer seeks not onl ...more
Kristy K
Jun 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, 2018
3.5 Stars

Using the lynching of Michael Donald in 1981, The Lynching provides an overview of racism in Alabama in the second half of the 20th century. It’s enraging, appalling, and sadly still relevant to how some issues are being handled today.
Kimba Tichenor
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
3.5 This book tells the true story of the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald in Mobile, Alabama and the subsequent pursuit of justice in the criminal and civil court system. The crime committed by two young UKA (United Klans of America) members was conceived by the Mobile Klavern as a response to the failure of a largely black jury to reach a verdict in the murder of a white man by a black man. The night of the verdict the two young men hunted down a random young black man, whose only offense was b ...more
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A Must read!

Engrossing, spellbinding, heartfelt are the words that came to mind when I finished this grippingly readable true crime narrative. This book is narrative non-fiction at its best in the same vein as Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America. This time the spotlight is shining on Alabama, specifically Mobile as it looks at two different trials; one trial of a revenge-based killing that lead to a crusade to legally challenge the UKA (United
Tom Mathews
As the title claims, Laurence Leamer’s latest book is a worthwhile recounting of a landmark legal case against the United Klans of America (UKA). But Leamer casts an even wider net. In addition to recounting the events surrounding the murder of nineteen-year-old Michael Donald and the lawsuit that resulted from it, ‘The Lynching’ retells events from the darkest days of the Civil Rights Era. Previous accounts, such as Taylor Branch's magnificent Parting the Waters trilogy may do a better job of r ...more
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a great book, if you want to understand a little bit more about the Civil Rights movement and the impact it should read this book, in 1981 a young black man was lynched , an occurrence that had not happened in a long time and that many people had tough would not happen again, but under the influence of the Klan and its leader 2 young member had done the deed, this book is about the legal case that saw them all the way to federal court and the quest of a young tourney to use the ca ...more
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Needs to be required reading in school! You can also check out my review of this book here ...more
Nandakishore Varma
Apr 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Lynching is, without doubt, a hate crime - always. The fury of the mob is brought to bear down on an individual: but at some point of time, he ceases to be a human being, but just a symbol for all that the lynchers hate. Which is why it is almost always the crime of choice for religious and racist bigots.

I decided to read this book for two reasons. One: I am interested in the white supremacist philosophy which seems to be on the rise again in the West, especially in the USA. Two: Lynchings have
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Lynching was not what I expected, which was a longer and possibly sensational court trial. Instead, it is a very readable history of the civil rights movement in Alabama. Yes, it reports the murder of an African-American teen in Mobile in the 1980's and how justice was finally accomplished and how that led to the demise of the Klan. It does so much more than that because it recounts the fear the white supremacists caused and the struggles of the movement in the 1960's, thus putting the murde ...more
Christopher Lawson
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Clever Legal Strategy - but Will it Work?

THE LYNCHING is a fascinating story of a determined lawyer bankrupting the Klan. This book is not actually about the criminal trial; rather, it's how attorney Morris Dees used a novel legal approach in a CIVIL trial to completely destroy the organization: "Dees hoped the amount would be so large that it would dramatically announce that the Klan could no longer commit violent acts against black people." As a side benefit of the civil trial, further crimina
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I have shamed myself into actually coming back and cleaning this up but also, it's been more than a year so take this with that knowledge.

Here is what I remember about this book:

1) It is mis-titled and misleadingly marketed and it does nothing for the book. I came in expecting a book about "The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan" but what I got was a book about a lawyer who, admittedly did work on this case and found the Southern Poverty Law Center, but whose life and work was the
Aug 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a powerful book about a lynching in Mobile, Alabama that took place in 1981 and the trial that linked this crime to the United Klans of America. It is also the story of Morris Dees who evolved from being a supporter of George Wallace to founding the Southern Poverty Law Center and who successfully prosecuted the case as a civil suit.

The beginning of the book that covers the actual crime is especially powerful. On the one hand, the Klan, the peope who are members and it's "secret rituals"
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Such an awful crime and the fact that it happened so 'relatively recently' was very hard for me when I first learned about it while living in Mobile, AL. A faculty member at my prior institution is quoted and had worked on the Nightline discussion of the case and some of the commemorative activities depicted in 2006 photographs were things I followed. That didn't save the fact that this book is just terribly written and edited: clearly the author wasn't sure whose story he really wanted to tell, ...more
Jul 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
The Lynching is a prime example of how not to write a book. Leamer tells you everything, but fails to show you anything: Show me, don’t tell me!

good luck
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
On March 21, 1981 two members of the KKK took to the streets of Mobile, Alabama in search of a Black man to kill in retaliation for an all black jury acquiting a black man accused of killing a white police officer. They found 19 year old Michael Donald who had briefly left the home of his sister to get her a pack of cigarettes. After abducting him at gunpoint, he was taking to the woods, murdered, and crudely attached to a tree in the centre of town in what would be the last documented lynching ...more
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly detailed and meticulously researched book that contextualized the "last lynching" of Michael Donald in 1981 In Mobile, Alabama. This book was thoughtful and engaging all the way through. ...more
Angelique Simonsen
WOW! This book blew me away! I was constantly wanting to go back to the great writing and the absolute rightness that this story be told!
Lea Ann
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I went to law school so the words "Epic Courtroom Battle" were sure to catch my eye. And since I went to law school I am aware that there is such a thing as the Southern Poverty Law Center. And I live in America and am aware that lynching was a terrible crime against people of color, mostly in the American South, during the civil rights movement and before. So the most shocking thing in reading this book, was the fact that the lynching in question, the lynching that launched the epic courtroom b ...more
Denise Fisher
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I learned so very much!
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Lynching:The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down The Klan by Laurence Leamer jumped out at me when I picked out audio book. Why didn't I remember this event? I thought back I was working plenty of overtime during the trial. Being so tired, I did not listen to the news, I just went right to bed. This subject is topical because of the resurgence of the Neo-Nazis and the Klan.

Michael Donald, a nineteen year old black man was killed by two Klansman in Mobile, Alabama. He was unarmed, had not
The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer. Right there in the title-Epic. It's not. I was looking forward to a tight, crisp, and suspense filled story. It was not told that way by Leamer. He's written a lot of books so, I'd need to see if he's just getting sloppy. The story of the murder, the investigation, and subsequent trials, just didn't pull me in. He doesn't do the story justice, IMO. I was interested, and kept reading nonetheless. Morris Dees, t ...more
Asha K.
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
In this easy read, Leamer draws some pretty unsettling connections between 1960s-80s actors and some of today's most infamous figures. For the most part, it's compelling. His Governor Wallace in particular seems to embody a certain too-familiar modern day demagogue. Morris Dees is a charming maverick from humble beginnings who gives up a lucrative business career to pursue justice for the disenfranchised.

The characterization of Dees left me feeling a bit icky. I know this book is supposed to be
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
A chilling look at racial segregation in the early 1980s, beginning with the Klan’s lynching of nineteen-year-old Michael Dodds in Mobile, Alabama. Not for the feint of heart, whether for the cruel, horrific violence or the disgusted, repulsive feeling of reading about the actions of Governor George Wallace, the Klu Klux Klan, the complicity of state and local police, and the apathy of white citizens and how they handled federally-mandated integration. It’s a well-written story about Lawyer Morr ...more
Ruth Woodman York
It took me awhile to read this. Not for any fault of the book. Simply because I wanted to be able to give it the attention I felt it deserved. I wanted to give it 5 stars. However, the extensive background history of the lawyer, Morris Dees, as well as that of Robert Shelton, took a bit away from what was the main story: The horrible lynching of Michael Donald. Instead of half the book being devoted to the aforementioned history, I would have liked more to be focused on the crime and the trials ...more
Ian Williams
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Good solid historical nonfiction, covers not only the lynching of Michel Donald, and the ensuing tribals, but also the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and the close, often personal relationships between Robert Shelton, and United Klans of America, George Wallace, and Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Jennifer W
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
So sad and disturbing that something like this could happen in my lifetime. Yet more heroes of the civil rights movement I didn't previously know about, but continue to amaze and inspire me. Also the backstory of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which I had never heard before. Also, the politics and rise of George Wallace sounds all too familiar and relevant right about now.... ...more
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a very readable book, it's not only about a 1981 lynching in Alabama, but also covers much about the Civil Rights era, George Wallace, Morris Dee and the Southern Poverty Law Center and the KKK. ...more
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
An absolutely amazing book. An absolute must-read for anyone!
David Quijano
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer while browsing the NYT website for good books to read. The book covers the criminal and civil trials that took place in the wake of the lynching of Michael Donald, an African-American whose only transgression was walking home from a convenience store while black.

The Lynching is split into three separate parts. The first part is about the lynching and subsequent criminal trial. The second part is about
Jul 31, 2017 marked it as to-read
Shelves: nonfiction
Every once in a while - especially in times like these - you just need a feel-good story where horrible people are brought to justice and legitimate societal progress is made. I don't normally read nonfiction books about single events (I tend to prefer broader historical concepts), but this one is going to be an exception. ...more
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Laurence Leamer is an award winning journalist and historian who has written fifteen books including five New York Times bestsellers. He has worked in a factory in France, a coal mine in West Virginia and as a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote village in Nepal two days from a road. He has written one novel and an off Broadway play but is primarily known for his nonfiction. His new book, The Lynchi ...more

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100 likes · 49 comments
“There had not been a lynching in America in a quarter century, and no one standing looking at the body had ever seen such a crime, but they had heard about it from family members and read about it in social science books in school. And they believed they knew what had occurred. White men had lynched a black man, and they had done it to send a message of intimidation and terror. This was something they thought would never happy again, and many of the black onlookers wept, others fell to the ground beating their fists against the earth.” 2 likes
“If jurors were looking for a way to come back finding for the UKA, Mays had given it to them. Senator Michael Figures made the plaintiff’s final arguments. He had been there on Herndon Street the morning of the lynching, and he had seen Donald’s body hanging from a tree. He had been” 2 likes
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