The Past Is Never Dead: The Trial of James Ford Seale and Mississippi's Struggle for Redemption

The Past Is Never Dead: The Trial of James Ford Seale and Mississippi's Struggle for Redemption

by Harry N. MacLean
     
 

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On May 2, 1964, Klansman James Ford Seale picked up two black hitchhikers and drowned both young men in the Mississippi River. Seale spent more than forty years a free man, before finally facing trial in 2007. There could have been two defendants in the resulting case: James Ford Seale for kidnapping and murder, and the State of Mississippi for complicity—

Overview


On May 2, 1964, Klansman James Ford Seale picked up two black hitchhikers and drowned both young men in the Mississippi River. Seale spent more than forty years a free man, before finally facing trial in 2007. There could have been two defendants in the resulting case: James Ford Seale for kidnapping and murder, and the State of Mississippi for complicity—knowingly aiding, abetting, and creating men like Seale.

In The Past Is Never Dead, best-selling author Harry MacLean follows Seale’s trial, the legal difficulties of prosecuting kidnapping and murder charges decades after the fact, and the strain on a state contending with a past that can’t be forgiven. MacLean’s narrative is at once the account of a gripping legal battle and an acute meditation on the possibility of redemption.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

BookPage
The Past Is Never Dead works both as a true crime potboiler and as a broader allegory of the South’s search for redemption.”

Booklist
“From jury selection through the actual trial, MacLean offers a portrait of a state grappling with its past and anxious to remove its stigma.”

CrimeRant.com
“With this book, Harry proves just how good he is as a lawyer and author…You will be riveted. Enough said.”

Jackson Free Press
“MacLean’s writing is unambiguous and clear, entertaining and fast-paced…The book is riveting.”

Denver Post
“[E]xtraordinary…What makes this book so profound are MacLean’s insights into how the trial reflects Mississippi’s social mores and internal conflict.”

Roll Call

“[I]nsightful for anyone who wants a better understanding of the history of race relations in the South.”

Stephen White, New York Times bestselling author of The Siege
“Harry MacLean proves it yet again: Take a simmering controversy, a tense courtroom, and a pressing need for social context, and America has no better literary guide than MacLean. In The Past is Never Dead, he focuses his considerable storytelling talent on Mississippi’s attempt to resurrect itself from the horrors of its segregationist past as James Ford Seale is brought to trial for his role in the deaths of Henry Dee and Charles Moore. MacLean brings the epic trial to life while he translates modern Mississippi’s struggles for transformation. A powerful, timely book about the misunderstood, modern South.”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“Even decades after the Civil Rights Movement wrought real change throughout the United States, Mississippi remains ground zero for what can be called the ongoing drama of racial inequality. This is the ground Harry Maclean walks in this fierce, moving, and tremendously engaging book.”

Laurence Shames, author of Boss of Bosses and
Not Fade Away
“Fast-paced and tough-minded, The Past is Never Dead combines a taut and vivid courtroom drama with a passionate and cogent meditation on race, justice, and the awful burden of history.”

Publishers Weekly
In the summer of 1964, James Ford Seale and six fellow Klansmen tortured and drowned two black teenagers, Charles Moore and Henry Dee, in the Mississippi River. This study of the crime—which took 43 years to come to trial—and racism in Mississippi, past and present, is slightly hobbled by its sloppy structure. The book careens between the 1964 murder and the 2007 trial, but develops into a compelling courtroom drama. Despite a penchant for melodrama and hackneyed plot devices, lawyer MacLean (In Broad Daylight) recounts the story with momentum, clear legal explanations and stirring empathy for each character—from Charles Moore's grieving brother, Thomas, to Charles Edwards, a Klansman and the key to Seale's conviction. Most masterful is his treatment of Seale himself. Without ever telling the story from Seale's point of view, but instead describing how the defendant is seen through the eyes of others, MacLean accomplishes the tricky task of giving a monster pathos of his own. (Oct.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465005048
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
09/22/2009
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author


Harry N. MacLean is a lawyer and writer. He has worked as a juvenile court magistrate, first assistant attorney general, associate professor of law, general counsel of the Peace Corps, and labor arbitrator. His first book, In Broad Daylight, won an Edgar Award for Best True Crime and was a New York Times bestseller. His second book, Once Upon a Time, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

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