On the Laps of Gods : The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation
They shot them down like rabbits . . . September 30, 1919. The United States teetered on the edge of a racial civil war. During the previous three months, racial fighting had erupted in twenty-five cities. And deep in the Arkansas Delta, black sharecroppers were meeting in a humble wooden church, forming a union and making plans to sue their white landowners, who for years had cheated them out of their fair share of the cotton crop. A car pulled up outside the church . . . What happened next has long been shrouded in controversy. In this heartbreaking but ultimately triumphant story of courage and will, journalist Robert Whitaker carefully documents—and exposes—one of the worst racial massacres in American history. Over the course of several days, posses and federal troops gunned down more than one hundred men, women, and children. But that is just the beginning of this astonishing story. White authorities also arrested more than three hundred black farmers, and in trials that lasted only a few hours, all-white juries sentenced twelve of the union leaders to die in the electric chair.
On September 30, 1919, a group of white planters tried to shut down a black sharecroppers' meeting in Arkansas; a sheriff was killed in the melee, and the next day hordes of whites traveled to the county. Thus began the Elaine Massacre, the "indiscriminate hunting down, shooting and killing of Negroes," as one white witness described it. Whitaker (The Mapmaker's Wife) reconstructs the "killing fields" where by October 3, five white men and over 100 black men, women and children were killed. Hundreds of black sharecroppers were arrested; after torture-obtained confessions, 74 men were convicted and 12 received the death penalty. Whitaker examines the trial, the ensuing appeals and the heroic--ultimately successful--efforts of the lawyer and former slave, Scipio Africanus Jones and the 12 defendants who were finally set free in 1925. His research is thorough, particularly in his use of Arkansas resources; the arrangement of his documentation, however, makes tracking his sources a put-the-jigsaw-together exercise for the reader. Whitaker's balanced report of what are, at times, diametrically opposed versions of events illuminates a dismal corner of American history. (June) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
June 09, 2008
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.