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 story of America’s black migration, Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove does for this great untold story of American legal history, a dangerous and uncertain case from the days immediately before Brown v. Board of Education in which the young civil rights attorney Marshall risked his life to defend a boy slated for the electric chair—saving him, against all odds, from being sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit.
In July 1949, four black men in Florida (the Groveland Four ) were accused of raping a white woman. By the time Marshall joined the case in August, one of the defendants who had fled into the swamps had been lawfully killed. After a trial of the remaining three, two were sentenced to death, and one to life imprisonment. On Marshall s appeal, the Supreme Court ordered a new trial for the two on death row, though both men were shot while being transported between prisons before the second trial began, and only one survived. Using unredacted Groveland FBI case files and the NAACP s Legal Defense Fund files, journalist King (The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South) revisits an oft-overlooked case, with its accuser, whose testimony was patently false; defendants, who suffered terribly as a consequence; local police officials and lawyers who persecuted and prosecuted them; and their lawyers, who showed remarkable courage and perseverance in seeking justice. The story s drama and pathos make it a page-turner, but King s attention to detail, fresh material, and evenhanded treatment of the villains make it a worthy contribution to the history of the period, while offering valuable insight into Marshall s work and life.
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Justice Thurgood Marshall is what legends are made of
This is a brilliantly written piece of African American history and our civil rights leaders.
A remarkable bit of history that should be widely shared. We shouldn't run from our past, but seek to understand it and grow from it. This book evoked both sadness and anger in me.
A thrilling, inspiring story of courage & tenacity in the long struggle for racial equality
This story of a long-forgotten milepost on the road to racial equality (that we're still traveling) was an astounding read. The Pulitzer was richly deserved. Bravo, Mr. King!