It's part crime drama, part history and part legal thriller and there isn't a dull moment in the book. Sheriff Willis McCall had god-like status in the area. It made the story more interesting perhaps, but also made me more skeptical in trusting the non-fiction. It really happened, and not that long ago. My equilibrium has definitely been upset for a while. Yet the book educates, and it sticks to the facts. There is no list of the people involved.
I read this book because I am reading books about the Supreme Court Justices and even though this book takes place before Marshall was appointed to the court I thought it would provide me with an insight into the man, which the book did. As a biography of Thurgood Marshall, it introduces readers to the life of an extraordinary, larger-than-life giant in the country's evolution. The book is not a biography. I learned quite a bit. Thank you for writing this book, Gilbert King.
In the late 1940s in Lake County Florida, a seventeen year old girl claimed she was raped by four black men. The most disturbing for him however, is the photo of young white children posing near the corpse of Rubin Stacy as it hangs from a tree, smiling and oblivious to the cruelty of what has just taken place. This history creates a sense of comfort and belonging for him as he travels by train, crisscrossing the country defending equality and civil rights. There was a lot I didn't know about. Only the public outcry against the travesty of justice in the case leads to his sentence eventually being commuted to life in prison by a newly installed governor intent on cleaning up the state's severely tarnished image in order to continue to encourage the economic explosion that's occuring there at the time. But you already knew that, didn't you? Still, I would criticize the book for almost losing the Groveland case in the other details.
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. A man with tremendous intelligence, wily and cunning, good natured, quick witted, quite skilled both as a lawyer and in public relations. I had the misfortune of living in Lake Co. Reading about the uphill climbs for justice in America a little more than 60 years ago. Yet, ultimately, once all the ground work has been laid out for the reader -- what were Thurgood Marshall and his associates working on and under what conditions were the working -- the narrative flows much more evenly.
By the end, a crystal-clear picture is drawn. I especially enjoyed the stories about the not so well known fighters in the struggle. There are many individuals to keep track of, but each one introduced is there for a reason and comes to play a significant role. The author often gets bogged down in descriptive tangents. King's book is a detailed, dramatic account of a case in Lake County, Florida, 1949, in which four almost-random black kids teenagers and early 20s were charged with raping a young white woman. And it can be hard to take at times.
The book was eye-opening for me on a number of fronts. 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. McCall, a violent sheriff who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. Easily one of the best books I have read this year. This quote from the book accurately portrays how I was feeling during a lot of my time reading this. In the end, I came to know and appreciate Thurgood Marshall and his role in our national journey a good deal more and I was blown away by learning about the reality of the Groveland case of which I had heard but knew little previously. 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.
I am now a huge Thurgood Marshall fan. She moved to the Daytona area in 1949. Published by Harper, the book was awarded the 2013. The book is a lot of things all done well. But what few reviewers have focused on is that it illustrates how change can occur, even if slowly and painfully. While four boys were arrested, one escaped and was shortly thereafter killed.
But what few reviewers have focused on is that it illustrates how change can occur, even if slowly and painfully. Judges convicted poor, black defendants with a wink and a nod. To Marshall this photo represents the next generation of white children being brought up to actively hate and discriminate against black people, or at least to be indifferent to their suffering. Devil in the grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the dawn of a new America. As ultimately disturbed as I am, I'm also thankful for the experience and this costly awareness as it will lead me to go forward differently and better as a member of a different time with its own challenges, a significant number of which are still race-affected if not race-based. The book also heavily features , a judge who defended the Groveland Boys, and would later go on to become a Supreme Court Justice. Supreme Court history for the New York Times and the Washington Post, and is a featured contributor to Smithsonian magazine's history blog, Past Imperfect.
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. That these kids suffered horrendous beatings and just all manner of appalling physical abuse by Sheriff McCall and his deputies was seen as a big plus by area whites; McCall would win reelection seven times, and was in power as late as 1972. I walk a fine line between having to do my job, and wanting to be sure abuses are not occuring. Then the Ku Klux Klan rolled into town, burning homes and chasing hundreds of blacks into the swamps. I also had the distinct impression that the author would have preferred to have written an exciting story about Thurgood Marshall and the monumental Brown v. This is a great read and a deep and deeply disturbing book.
The book is dense, and I do not have a degree in law. They were Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin. Sheriff McCall was a true Devil. It does not cover his entire life. Men would stand and take off their hats when he passed.