Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


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Board of Education case when he took on an explosive case to save the only survivor of the Groveland Four, young black men wrongfully accused of raping a white woman in central Florida. The young woman, estranged from her husband, concocted a rape accusation involving two black men recently returned from military service and two other, unrelated men. One of the accused was killed by a vigilante mob.

After a reversal of their convictions, as they faced a retrying of the case, two others were killed by the sheriff charged with protecting them. King draws on court documents and FBI archives to offer a compelling chronicle of the accusation, which led to a paroxysm of violence against the black community in Groveland, reminiscent of the destruction of Rosewood, in ; brutal beatings that led to forced confessions; and the dramatic trial.

Marshall, physically exhausted and facing threats to his life, was housed, fed, and protected by a black community encouraged by his presence as he battled to save the life of the last remaining member of the Groveland Four. In July , 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.

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. 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.

Farley Chase, the Waxman Literary Agency. Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South has written an arresting account of Thurgood Marshall's role as a prominent civil rights attorney in challenging racist "justice" in the South. King vividly renders the horrors perpetrated by a racist legal system and its odious representatives-principally, Lake County, FL, Sheriff Willis McCall, who was responsible for the arrest and unjust prosecution of four young black men, designated "the Groveland Boys.

At great personal risk, Marshall tenaciously challenged the hegemony of McCall, eventually bringing to an end the racist reign of terror in Lake County and drawing it and its underlying mentality to national attention. This account of the Groveland Four, defendants in the Jim Crow-era rape case, sheds new light on the fate of four African American men.

Drawing on FBI investigation files and personal papers of key NAACP lawyers, King elucidates the gendered and racial assumptions that denied the Groveland Four a fair trial and that justified arson, bombings, beatings, and murder to uphold southern racial mores. The case reached the US Supreme Court, which ordered a new trial for two of the defendants, who were then shot under suspicious circumstances. He lives in New York City with his wife and two daughters.

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From there you can navigate to the title you are interested in. Find the hottest teen books, connect with your favorite YA authors and meet new friends who share your reading interests! Your one stop blog for teaching information, author updates and a wealth of educational resources. Devil in the Grove: The story of their interactions with the legal system of Central Florida - and eventually our appellate court system - is as tragic as it is disturbing.

Sadly, it shouldn't surprise that the mere accusation of rape by a young southern white woman at mid-century generated an almost automatic response: In the Groveland, Florida, case, four Negro men - two pairs of friends who did not know each other - were rounded up after a distressingly baseless accusation by a local teenage wife in a troubled marriage.

After a race riot in the town in which local leaders and law enforcement officers participated to exact retribution on the area's Negro population and a manhunt by a person posse that resulted in the supposedly unavoidably fatal shooting of the fourth suspect, the remaining three were beaten mercilessly to extract confessions - which two of them gave in order to end assaults so brutal that they likely would have continued until they proved fatal - and then tried and convicted on the flimsiest of evidence and sentenced severely - two to death by electrocution and the other in a rare tacit acknowledgement of his likely innocence to a life sentence.

The NAACP became involved because of the egregiousness of the case - there was scant evidence other than the coerced confessions - which resulted in appeals to the Florida and US Supreme Courts and a retrial for two of the accused as the third decided not to appeal in order not to expose himself to a likely death sentence upon an equally likely re-conviction.

In the process of being retried, both of the remaining appellants are shot during an alleged escape attempt. The cold-blooded murderer turns out to be the local sheriff, assisted by his equally venal deputy, who makes an unfortunate or, actually, fortunate mistake: The remaining Groveland Boy is then re-tried in what is in effect a kangaroo court in an adjacent county , re-convicted and re-sentenced to death, but this time his US Supreme Court appeal is denied.

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.

In a sad but predictable coda to the story, after serving two decades in prison for a crime that he did not commit because it never occurred , and most of this time on death row, the recently paroled convict returns to Lake County for a brief visit with tragic results. The book has a dual storyline: The reality is that the latter aspect of the storyline, ostensibly a biography of one of the singular shapers of 20th century American history, is primarily focused on his professional life, while the former is a gripping and therefore terrifying exploration of the brutual realities of race in the mid-century American South.

The Marshall biography is good, but the story of the Negro American experience is great: Simply put, the racism of the American South was as sadistic a regime as any other that we now decry e. So this is truly a fascinating if appalling story and because it's so well-written it becomes a rare experience indeed: I read it in two days only because I had to stop reading - reluctantly - because my eyes got tired on the first. I literally couldn't put it down until I couldn't see anymore. Until the last chapter, which, rather than being a comprehensive summation of a well-developed narrative feels more like an abbreviated and therefore unsatisfying coda to an otherwise incredible and extensively relayed story.

And I would have liked a few more pictures.

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Those are about the only two minor quibbles that I can make relative to an otherwise outstanding effort. 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.

Having read about other 20th century American race tragedies like those in Rosewood FL and Tulsa OK , I was familiar with the moral and legal corruption of the South in that era. But this book is so well-written that it felt like being there: I could feel the abject fear of the soon-to-be tortured suspects, the seething outrage of those of evolving conscience in response to the craven immorality of the local law enforcement and the celebrate-now-before-we-have-to-get-back-to-serious-and-dangerous-work abandon of the beleaguered but often jubilant NAACP LDF legal team. I am still haunted by the profundity of the pathos and tragedy of this story.

And I have an almost involuntarily deeper appreciation for the largely silent suffering of the millions of African-Americans of that era - even though I have studied this aspect of our national history for decades now - because this book sears the incidents into the reader's consciousness because of its profoundly moving vividity and acuity.

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In a word, it's deep: I almost wish that I hadn't learned so much about this story, because now that I know it I feel compelled to be significantly more dismayed at the inhumanity of our society just a few generations ago. And yet I take some measure of comfort that a number of the white protagonists in this story were themselves so appalled by it that they eventually evolved beyond the hateful ethos of their milieu.

To put it numerically, I take a 3-level of comfort, but I am disturbed at something that feels more like 9 or And that's what great writing does, I guess.

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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. To sum it up, I recommend this book highly to those seeking a great read, to students of American and African-American history, to non-fiction readers looking for a compelling story and to fiction aficionados willing to experience something rare: Jun 03, Linda rated it really liked it.

It's always amazing to me to see how the Southern states continue to believe the Civil War was never fought.

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In , Thurgood Marshall and several other NAACP legal defense fund stars risked their lives to go to Florida and intervene, alt 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. Feb 29, Jill rated it it was amazing. Get fast, free shipping with Amazon Prime. He did not try to prop him up as a demigod, and it was clear that Justice Marshall was a good man whose human faults did not stop him from achieving GREAT things. Reviewed by Bruce Allen Murphy Devil in the Grove is the dramatic and deeply disturbing account of one of the least known, but most important, Jim Crow criminal cases of the 20th century. Instead the innocent men that survived got to go to jail for 15 years. Unfortunately for the accused, he was tried in a Florida courtroom in

This is another case of 4 black men accused of raping a white woman, although the woman herself 17 at the time showed no signs of rape, walked into a small restaurant in the early morning and told the owner's son, very calmly, that 4 men had abducted her but she couldn't identify them and that her husband might be lying out there dead. Suffice it to say, 4 blacks, two of them Army vetera It's always amazing to me to see how the Southern states continue to believe the Civil War was never fought. Suffice it to say, 4 blacks, two of them Army veterans, were picked up for this "crime.

One of them, pursued by law enforcement he had no idea why he was running was shot and killed.

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America

The first trial found all guilty but gave the one who had been in jail at the time a life sentence rather than death. The other two were given death sentences. Unexplicably, the sheriff who had originally arrested them, beaten them, beaten them again on the way to the state prison, who also with his deputy manufactured "evidence" against them, was assigned to drive them from the state pen back to the small town for retrial.

Somehow, on the way back, the "boys" tried to escape and were both shot. Unfortunately for the accused, he was tried in a Florida courtroom in He was again sentenced to death and removed to the state prison. Strangely enough, after a couple of years of freedom, he was found dead. Although I get frustrated when reading these books, I enjoy them for the history.

That people can really believe what these Southerners did is amazing. It always turns out the same way, but you keep hoping that one white juryman who actually listens to the evidence, that white lawyer like Atticus Finch will take on the case and show the utter absurdity of it, etc. But it doesn't happen. Sep 12, Roxanne Russell rated it liked it Shelves: Any book about the South and the experience of African-Americans is going to be difficult to read. However, I felt some personal growth in my ability to engage with this story. 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.

As I read Devil in the Grove, I felt more uplifted by the courage and integrity of th Any book about the South and the experience of African-Americans is going to be difficult to read. Though Thurgood Marshall is the central hero of this story, Harry T Moore stood out as the most heroic soldier for the Groveland boys.

Moore's tireless dedication to the cause and on-the-ground persistence is inspiring. The central villain of the story is Willis V McCall. I mentioned that I was reading this book to a relative who served 40 years in the Florida State Patrol and his first reaction was to come to the defense of Willis McCall. This was pretty good story-telling. The character descriptions were biased, but unflinchingly so. The author takes some liberties in describing events- often ascribing thoughts and motivations as an omnipotent narrator. It made the story more interesting perhaps, but also made me more skeptical in trusting the non-fiction.

View all 4 comments. Oct 24, Eddie rated it it was amazing. To give this book anything less than four stars would be beyond me. Why do I seek these emotionally, kick my ass books out? I'm addicted to hard facts and truths, not romanticized bull, I suppose. This book was a vivid and detailed account of four Groveland black men that were falsely accused of rape by a white woman and the evil and horrors that spiraled over from these false accusations.

This book made me immensely sad in a lot of parts, the horrors that mostly black men faced in the south was To give this book anything less than four stars would be beyond me. This book made me immensely sad in a lot of parts, the horrors that mostly black men faced in the south was apprehensible and appalling. The evil that a small group of people who then can spread the cancer of hate outwards onto others is such a baffling phenomenon and psychology of the human psyche I have a hard time fully grasping.

It's such an easy task to accomplish, in small circles at work, towns, cultures, or the mindset of a group of collective people. Hate is such an easy feeling to have and let grow and conquer so many minds, yet the damages of hate and bigotry are always fought by a small group of people who risk their lives and livelihood before the masses wake up and join in to eradicate the hate. Point blank, Fuck hate. This book, again, kicked my ass, but it also reinforced my ideas that if I'm the minority in opinions that go against the grain of people's chosen ignorance and bigotry, then I'm on the right course.

I moved to the south in Although there was a "show" of integration, Lubbock was then, and is now, a very racially divided city. While I will admit that many things have changed, court ordered integration of schools, city council, school board, etc is not "integration. Well, it is obvious to me that if the laws were not in place, there would be much less integratio I moved to the south in Well, it is obvious to me that if the laws were not in place, there would be much less integration in Lubbock.

I work in an environment in which power and authority are easily abused.

I walk a fine line between having to do my job, and wanting to be sure abuses are not occuring. It is very tense, for me, sometimes. This book gives us a good picture of the Jim Crow era, and those who fought against it in whatever ways they could. We know today that poverty, ignorance, and race influence how "justice" is carried out in our court systems. It is a very sad story. And a black eye on the history of the United States.

I highly recommend this book. Jul 26, Beth rated it liked it. This is an important book and well worth reading. I was somewhat disappointed in this book given that it had won the Pulitzer Prize for history. There was a lot I didn't know about. Reviews of the book suggest that it reads like a novel think Hellhound on His Trail. This wasn't the case for me. The author often gets bogged down in descriptive tangents.

Perhaps he had enough for two books and edited. But This is an important book and well worth reading. But I often found myself thinking, "get to the point". Some of the acts described in this book are graphic.

Gilbert King - Devil in the Grove

This is NOT a bad thing. But if you are sensitive, you should be aware of this. A number of times I had to put the book down because of my anger level or my disgust. My respect for people who use the law and non-violence in response to horrible affronts to humanity is boundless. Because there were times while reading this book I could feel how easily I could be moved to violence. Feb 29, Jill rated it it was amazing. This is a book that should be required reading. This horrifying, edge-of-your-seat tale really happened, and not that long ago.

Its repercussions helped make the country what it is today. The author, who unearthed FBI files under seal for sixty years, has done an outstanding job in telling this story which manages to be heart-breaking, inspiring, infuriating, and admirable all at once. In , a year-old white woman, Norma Padgett, accused four young black men in Groveland, Florida of raping her.

Thomas is killed trying to evade capture, but the other three are arrested and at the mercy of the ruthless and deadly Sheriff Willis McCall. This book covers a lot of ground. It also goes in depth on the different people involved in the case in Florida, and the different people working at and with the NAACP. That's the one issue with this book, it's just a little too unfocused to give 5 stars. All the information was interesting, but with all the jumping around it got a little confusing.

This is definitely a book that is worth your time. I hadn't heard of this case before, and the author definitely did his research.

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But this is not one of those civil rights stories where justice ultimately prevails. And it can be hard to take at times. Jan 13, Jean rated it it was amazing Shelves: The book is about four black men falsely accused of raping Normal Lee Padgett, a 17 year old white woman in Groveland Florida in Sheriff McCall killed two of the men while in his custody. He was never charged for the shootings. The other two were badly beaten many times but no one was ever charged with the beatings.

The KKK burned to the ground the black community in Groveland. King details the complicated case involving 4 defendants, several trials, various appeals, numerous defense attorneys, multiple judges and different points of law.

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I learned a few pearls from the story 1 more black man were lynched in Florida than any other Southern State and 2 these were the type of cases that evidentially lead to removing the death penalty from rape cases. I was appalled at the treatment of black people by the white in Lake County, if the blacks were the main pickers of the oranges, I just cannot understand why they were beaten and killed. Dead men do not pick oranges. Also it is a disgrace to have Sheriff McCall be re-elected to office for over 20 years. 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.

I read this book in audio book format. Peter Francis James did an excellent job narrating the book. Jul 13, Tessa in Mid-Michigan rated it really liked it Shelves: Reading like a great novel, Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King captures your attention by sending chills down your spine. And not just once. Case after case is presented in stark, horrifying detail, from the hair-raising attempts made on Thurgood Marshall and other NAACP lawyers to the lynchings, riots, and government corruption found throughout the south in the post-war Jim Crow years.

Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, in the 70's, I heard rumors of trouble, even at my own high school. But I Reading like a great novel, Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King captures your attention by sending chills down your spine.