The Washington Post
The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow Southby Alex Heard
In this gripping saga of race and retribution, Alex Heard (editorial director of Outside magazine) tells a moving and unforgettable story of the deep South that says as much about Mississippi today as it does about the mysteries of the past. In doing so, he evokes the bitter conflicts between black and white, north and south in America.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author
Alex Heard is the editorial director of Outside magazine. He has worked as an editor and writer at The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Wired, and The New Republic, and is the author of Apocalypse Pretty Soon. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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I was hoping to hear more than a one sided story It could have been better.
In 1945 black man Willie McGee is sentenced to death for raping Willette Hawkins a white woman in Mississippi. Six years later even with noted celebrities like Faulkner and Einstein and the Communist Party speaking in defense of "Free Willie McGee", the state executed him. Alex Heard provides a deep look at the case and the Jim Crow environment that made the outcome inevitable. First Mr. Heard makes a case that both sides in the debate played at best loose with the truth and most likely fabricated it. The prosecution appears to have forced a confession, used the racist card to sell their side and forced the defense attorneys to flee to avoid a lynching. On the other hand Mr. Heard also believes that McGee's contention of an affair is doubtful and a woman was hired probably by the Communist Party to act as his wife. Using FBI records, newspapers and interviews of family members, Mr. Heard paints a powerful look at Jim Crow as regardless of the evidence, Willie McGee would have been executed. Finally with photos including from the picnic atmosphere of the execution and references To Kill a Mockingbird, this is a deep look back at a nasty period in our history. Harriet Klausner