Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Without Mercy" is Nominated for Lillian Smith Book Award

Without Mercy: The Stunning True Story of Race, Crime and Corruption in the Deep South

by David Beasley

On December 9, 1938, the state of Georgia executed six black men in eighty-one minutes in Tattnall Prison's electric chair. The executions were a record for the state that still stands today. The new prison, built with funds from FDR's New Deal, as well as the fact that the men were tried and executed rather than lynched were thought to be a sign of progress. They were anything but. While those men were arrested, convicted, sentenced, and executed in as little as six weeks---E. D. Rivers, the governor of the state, oversaw a pardon racket for white killers and criminals, allowed the Ku Klux Klan to infiltrate his administration, and bankrupted the state. Race and wealth were all that determined whether or not a man lived or died. There was no progress. There was no justice.
David Beasley's Without Mercy is the harrowing true story of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the violent death throes of the Klan, but most of all it is the story of the stunning injustice of these executions and how they have seared distrust of the legal system into the consciousness of the Deep South, and it is a story that will forever be a testament to the death penalty's appalling inequality that continues to plague our nation
“Not often does a single book deal with governmental corruption, poverty, inequality, history and crime. David Beasley's book does all that - and does it masterfully…The grinding poverty that drenched the state is described in a way that tears at the soul...Anyone interested in the sufferings of the Great Depression and in criminal justice will benefit from perusing this work. It is a keeper, one of the best I've seen in a long time.” - The Oklahoman
“David Beasley's prodigious research has excavated the bones of a sordid time in Georgia's history, when the unholy alliance of corruption and white supremacy, operating behind the mask of civility and the hood of the Ku Klux Klan, perverted justice all the way to the death chamber. Beasley shows men of privilege and of penury, white and black, all of them convicted criminals, as they move closer to the electric chair and beg for exemption from one of the nation's largest mass executions in a single day.” - Hank Klibanoff, Pulitzer Prize-winning coauthor of The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation
“The modern death penalty in Georgia was preceded not too many years before by a system that was plagued by racism, injustice, and political corruption. In his fascinating book, Without Mercy, David Beasley tells the stories of many who vainly sought justice in this earlier system. Hopefully, all such prejudice and official misconduct has been weeded out, but it would be naive to think The modern death penalty in Georgia was preceded not too many years before by a system that was plagued by racism, injustice, and political corruption. In his fascinating book, Without Mercy, David Beasley tells the stories of many who vainly sought justice in this earlier system. Hopefully, all such prejudice and official misconduct has been weeded out, but it would be naive to think that human nature has changed so radically that executions can now be carried out without deep concerns.” - Richard C. Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center
“David Beasley's superb Without Mercy is that rare true-crime book that deepens your understanding of a time and place even as it shakes you to the bone. If Raymond Chandler and James Agee had gotten together, this is what they might have written.” - Steve Oney, author of And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank
“Without Mercy builds outward from one dramatic event, the mass execution of six black men in Georgia in 1938, to tell a compelling story that rings the bell of justice to our own time.” - James H. Madison, author of A Lynching in the Heartland: Race and Memory in America
“Without Mercy reads like a John Grisham thriller, but unfortunately, it isn't. It is, sadly and regrettably, entirely true. In a meticulous and measured book that lifts the curtain on a handful of murders that took place in Georgia in the New Deal era, David Beasley has illuminated the role that race, wealth, social status, and privilege play in determining who lives and who dies in our nation's execution chambers. This is not only history and crime-writing at its very finest, it is a haunting and searing moral indictment of a legal system that remains to this day characterized by the very same inequalities.” - David R. Dow, author of The Autobiography of an Execution
“Beasley builds his thesis case by case. [and] retains his reporter's objectivity as he records the facts.” - Book Reporter
“David Beasley's fastidiously researched Without Mercy tells the story of a justice system that was anything but just... Much like a nightmare or a heart-pounding action movie, this is a story one doesn't easily forget. Without Mercy is history, but its shadows and echoes are still very much alive today in the unsettling and eye-opening reality of capital punishment... A terrifying study of how lopsided the justice system can be while still technically maintaining the letter of the law.” - Shelf Awareness
“This is a gripping read for anyone... This is a must read.” - Charleston Chronicle
“The book Without Mercy, is a stunning true story of race, crime and corruption in the deep South as it pertains to the pattern of convicting and in some cases executing people of color without fair a trial.” - Baltimore Sun
“[Beasley] effectively juxtaposes the lives of the black men who were executed with white men who were not, following their passage through the judicial system. Beasley's well-documented and vivid account ultimately puts capital punishment itself on trial.” - Publishers Weekly
“Beasley's catalogue of inequities accrues to a kind of tragic narrative, a tale in which progress is too slow to save those whom tradition would rather let die.” - The Boston Globe
“Georgia's history is a goldmine of corruption, and David Beasley... has reached in and grabbed a few glittering chunks for examination... Without Mercy is well researched and Beasley moves along his various plots with a mannered precision that emphasizes the giddy perversities of Georgia life in the '30s.” - Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Must-read.” - New York Post

Saturday, May 9, 2015

"Desire and Disaster in New Orleans" is Nominated for Lillian Smith Book Award

Desire and Disaster in New Orleans:
Tourism, Race and Historical Memory
By Lynnell L. Thomas

New Orleans has long been a place of desire, luring visitors to the city “to do things that they felt they couldn’t do in other places,” said Lynnell L. Thomas.

But along with the pleasures that New Orleans offers — good food, music and other charms — it is a city with a painful past and sometimes disastrous present.

In Desire & Disaster in New Orleans: Tourism, Race and Historical Memory (Duke University Press, 2014), Thomas examines how New Orleans is presented — pre- and post-Katrina — in tourism advertising and through the guided tours that thousands of out-of-towners take every year.

“All of those things that I talk about, I’m a product of and appreciate,” said Thomas, a native of New Orleans. “It is this strange thing of being an insider and also being critical.”

Thomas earned a Master of Liberal Arts from Tulane University in 1997, and then went on to get a PhD from Emory University. She is now an associate professor and chair of American studies at the University of Massachusetts–Boston.

Thomas began to research the mythologies of New Orleans tourism when she discovered “servant” dolls sold in French Quarter souvenir shops.

A tag on a brightly dressed doll, Cleo, Market Lady, described her “high station” in a household that she ran smoothly, “respected by the other servants and loved by the family she served.”

But, wait a second, thought Thomas. These attractive dolls ignore the fact that black women running households on a plantation before the Civil War were not “servants” but instead slaves performing “unpaid, coerced labor to sustain the plantation system.”

It is a disservice to the richness and depth of New Orleans culture to neglect, deny or distort the pain as well as the pleasure that is imbued in it, said Thomas. “It certainly won’t help us preserve it.”