The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South

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On May 3, 1946, in St. Martinsville, Louisiana, a seventeen-year-old black boy was scheduled for execution by electric chair. Willie Francis had been charged with murder; his trial had been brief; his death sentence never in doubt. When the executioners flipped the switch, Willie screamed and writhed as electricity coursed through his body. But Willie Francis did not die.

Having miraculously survived, Willie was informed that the state would attempt to execute him a second time within a week. The ensuing legal battle went all the way to the Supreme Court, asking: Could the state electrocute someone twice? A gripping narrative about a brutal crime and its shocking aftermath, The Execution of Willie Francis offers a heroic—and ultimately tragic—tale of one man’s quest for moral justice in a nation still blinded by race.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465013784
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/24/2009
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 582,335
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Gilbert King is the author of Woman, Child for Sale: The New Slave Trade in the 21st Century, which was selected by the Detroit Free Press as one of its ten Notable Books of the Year. In addition, he has contributed articles to numerous newspapers and magazines, including the Washington Post, Playboy, and the San Diego Union. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 28, 2013

    mr king wrote about my family history. willie francis is my grea

    mr king wrote about my family history. willie francis is my great uncle. it broke my heart reading about what he went through. im glad he had people on his sifr. one of the people is mr. ernest gaines. he is still living in louisiana.  read the last page of the book. its touvhing 

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2012

    Awesome Book

    I liked it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 30, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Be Proud Good Humanitarians! It's Not That Hard!

    I often find myself perusing books whose contents display the most darkest realms of
    humanity. Oftentimes, others should do the same. The Execution of Willie Francis is one of the most engaging books--a must read for African Americans in general. It is important for the newer generations to know where they come from, and I must tell you the young African American's of ST. Martinville, Louisiana can tell you this story. The Execution of Willie Francis was not hard for me to read because the author, Gilbert King, was so superfluous with historic accuracy of Willie Francis' count down to death. His second execution on May 3, 1946 is the prime example of loquacious hypocrisy that would have easily been different save for present day criminal executions in the United States of America. I commend Gilbert King for his most honest portrayal of the discussion of these difficult events. Gilbert King's, The Execution of Willie Francis, remains respectfully neutral, allowing the reader a chance to view the drama surrounding Willie Francis' two execution dates themselves. Open and unbiased, are my descriptions at best to the writing style of Gilbert King. However, as a reader of The Execution of Willie Francis, Gilbert King's true feelings of the final decision made by the United States Supreme Court depict that it was a "morally wrong" decision. In my heart, that is still what I "read". Thank you Gilbert King for your outstanding portrayal of humanity at it's worse, and at it's best. Your honest sympathy for Willie Francis and his family is still prevalent to me. Worth every dollar, now part of my personal library.

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