Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“A must-read, cannot-put-down history.” — Thomas Friedman, New York Times
Arguably the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century, Thurgood Marshall was on the verge of bringing the landmark suit Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court when he became embroiled in a case that threatened to change the course of the civil rights movement and cost him his life.
In 1949, Florida's orange industry was booming, and citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor with the help of Sheriff Willis V. McCall, who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a white seventeen-year-old girl cried rape, McCall pursued four young black men who dared envision a future for themselves beyond the groves. The Ku Klux Klan joined the hunt, hell-bent on lynching the men who came to be known as "the Groveland Boys."
Associates thought it was suicidal for Marshall to wade into the "Florida Terror," but the young lawyer would not shrink from the fight despite continuous death threats against him.
Drawing on a wealth of never-before-published material, including the FBI's unredacted Groveland case files, as well as unprecedented access to the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund files, Gilbert King shines new light on this remarkable civil rights crusader.
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.
Devil in the Grove
Heartbreakingly, one of the best books I have ever read.
Gut wrenching, but important read. The imagery and brutality conveyed by the author truly force the reader to ask oneself how much progress has really been made in civil rights for African-Americans in America.
What the Groveland 4 had to endure...words do not exist. What is the most astonishing is that the event and fallout are so recent that people associated are still alive. I highly recommend.
Justice Thurgood Marshall is what legends are made of
This is a brilliantly written piece of African American history and our civil rights leaders.