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 for a black man. The young men were members of Klavern 900 of the United Klans of America. They were seeking to retaliate after a largely black jury could not reach a verdict in a trial involving a black man accused of the murder of a white man. The two Klansmen found nineteen-year-old Michael Donald walking home alone. Hays and Knowles abducted him, beat him, cut his throat, and left his body hanging from a tree branch in a racially mixed residential neighborhood. Arrested, charged, and convicted, Hays was sentenced to death—the first time in more than half a century that the state of Alabama sentenced a white man to death for killing a black man. On behalf of Michael’s grieving mother, Morris Dees, the legendary civil rights lawyer and cofounder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed a civil suit against the members of the local Klan unit involved and the UKA, the largest Klan organization. Charging them with conspiracy, Dees put the Klan on trial, resulting in a verdict that would level a deadly blow to its organization. Based on numerous interviews and extensive archival research, The Lynching brings to life two dramatic trials, during which the Alabama Klan’s motives and philosophy were exposed for the evil they represent. In addition to telling a gripping and consequential story, Laurence Leamer chronicles the KKK and its activities in the second half the twentieth century, and illuminates its lingering effect on race relations in America today. The Lynching includes sixteen pages of black-and-white photographs.
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Uses excerpts from newspapers and editorials and accounts of the murder and trial to examine the lynching of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, in a volume which also contains selections from poems, songs, interviews, essays, and memoirs relating to the incident.
A landmark in the conversation about race and religion in America. "They put him to death by hanging him on a tree." Acts 10:39 The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. In this powerful new work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and souls of black folk. Both the cross and the lynching tree represent the worst in human beings and at the same time a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning. While the lynching tree symbolized white power and "black death," the cross symbolizes divine power and "black life" God overcoming the power of sin and death. For African Americans, the image of Jesus, hung on a tree to die, powerfully grounded their faith that God was with them, even in the suffering of the lynching era. In a work that spans social history, theology, and cultural studies, Cone explores the message of the spirituals and the power of the blues; the passion and of Emmet Till and the engaged vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.; he invokes the spirits of Billie Holliday and Langston Hughes, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ida B. Well, and the witness of black artists, writers, preachers, and fighters for justice. And he remembers the victims, especially the 5,000 who perished during the lynching period. Through their witness he contemplates the greatest challenge of any Christian theology to explain how life can be made meaningful in the face of death and injustice.
More than just a civil war, the Mexican Revolution in 1910 triggered hostilities along the border between Mexico and the United States. In particular, the decade following the revolution saw a dramatic rise in the lynching of ethnic Mexicans in Texas. This book argues that ethnic and racial tension brought on by the fighting in the borderland made Anglo-Texans feel justified in their violent actions against Mexicans. They were able to use the legal system to their advantage, and their actions often went unpunished. Villanueva’s work further differentiates the borderland lynching of ethnic Mexicans from the Southern lynching of African Americans by asserting that the former was about citizenship and sovereignty, as many victims’ families had resources to investigate the crimes and thereby place the incidents on an international stage.
On January 20, 1942, black oil mill worker Cleo Wright assaulted a white woman in her home and nearly killed the first police officer who tried to arrest him. An angry mob then hauled Wright out of jail and dragged him through the streets of Sikeston, Missouri, before burning him alive. Wright's death was, unfortunately, not unique in American history, but what his death meant in the larger context of life in the United States in the twentieth-century is an important and compelling story. After the lynching, the U.S. Justice Department was forced to become involved in civil rights concerns for the first time, provoking a national reaction to violence on the home front at a time when the country was battling for democracy in Europe. Dominic Capeci unravels the tragic story of Wright's life on several stages, showing how these acts of violence were indicative not only of racial tension but the clash of the traditional and the modern brought about by the war. Capeci draws from a wide range of archival sources and personal interviews with the participants and spectators to draw vivid portraits of Wright, his victims, law-enforcement officials, and members of the lynch mob. He places Wright in the larger context of southern racial violence and shows the significance of his death in local, state, and national history during the most important crisis of the twentieth-century.
“A compelling narrative that moves crisply through the murder, the lynching, and the cover-up by silence that local residents thereafter affected.”—The Journal of American History On a warm August night in 1911, Zachariah Walker was lynched—burned alive—by an angry mob on the outskirts of Coatesville, a prosperous Pennsylvania steel town. At the time of his very public murder, Walker, an African American millworker, was under arrest for the shooting and killing of a respected local police officer. Investigated by the NAACP, the horrific incident garnered national and international attention. Despite this scrutiny, a conspiracy of silence shrouded the events, and the accused men and boys were found not guilty at trial. More than 100 years after the lynching, authors Dennis B. Downey and Raymond M. Hyser bring new insight to events that rocked a community.
Between 1882 and 1968 there were 4,742 lynchings in the United States. In Canada during the same period there was one—the hanging of American Indian Louie Sam. The year is 1884, and 15-year-old George Gillies lives in the Washington Territory, near the border with British Columbia. In this newly settled land, white immigrants have an uneasy relationship with the Native Indians. When George and his siblings discover the murdered body of a local white man, suspicion immediately falls on a young Indian named Louie Sam. George and his best friend, Pete, follow a lynch mob north into Canada, where the terrified boy is seized and hung. But even before the deed is done, George begins to have doubts. Louie Sam was a boy, only 14—could he really be a vicious murderer? Were the mob leaders motivated by justice, or were they hiding their own guilt? As George uncovers the truth—implicating Pete’s father and other prominent locals—tensions in the town rise, and he must face his own part in the tragedy. But standing up for justice has devastating consequences for George and his family. Inspired by the true story of the lynching, recently acknowledged as a historical injustice by Washington State, this powerful novel offers a stark depiction of historical racism and the harshness of settler life. The story will provoke readers to reflect on the dangers of mob mentality and the importance of speaking up for what’s right.
After Native American Louie Sam is suspected of killing someone, he is chased into Canada and lynched, but teenager George Gillies, a newcomer to Washington Territory, doesn't think Louie was guilty and sets out to investigate.