Last Words of the Executed

Last Words of the Executed

by Robert K. Elder, Studs Terkel
4.5 2

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Last Words of the Executed by Robert K. Elder

Some beg for forgiveness. Others claim innocence. At least three cheer for their favorite football teams.

Death waits for us all, but only those sentenced to death know the day and the hour—and only they can be sure that their last words will be recorded for posterity. Last Words of the Executed presents an oral history of American capital punishment, as heard from the gallows, the chair, and the gurney.

The product of seven years of extensive research by journalist Robert K. Elder, the book explores the cultural value of these final statements and asks what we can learn from them. We hear from both the famous—such as Nathan Hale, Joe Hill, Ted Bundy, and John Brown—and the forgotten, and their words give us unprecedented glimpses into their lives, their crimes, and the world they inhabited. Organized by era and method of execution, these final statements range from heartfelt to horrific. Some are calls for peace or cries against injustice; others are accepting, confessional, or consoling; still others are venomous, rage-fueled diatribes. Even the chills evoked by some of these last words are brought on in part by the shared humanity we can’t ignore, their reminder that we all come to the same end, regardless of how we arrive there.

Last Words of the Executed is not a political book. Rather, Elder simply asks readers to listen closely to these voices that echo history. The result is a riveting, moving testament from the darkest corners of society.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226202693
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 05/15/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 363,419
File size: 834 KB

About the Author

Robert K. Elder has written for the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Salon, and many other publications. He teaches journalism at Northwestern University and is the author or editor of several books.

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Last Words of the Executed 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
KatyKreutzer More than 1 year ago
In this book you learn a lot about different execution methods-the noose, firing squad, electric chair, gas chamber and lethal injection-and their background. From 1659 to 2008, it lists and pages many exciting stories of execution. You get to learn why the United States went from the hanging (noose) method of execution the firing squad then to the electric chair, gas chamber and finally to the method of lethal injection (which is still used to this day). You also get to learn crazy facts, like Thomas A. Edison (the creator of electric lights and the phonograph) was the one to come up with the idea of the Electric Chair. If you are like me you also start noticing crazy trends in the last words due to time period or even the method of execution. Through out the many years the themes of the last words shifted dramatically. Starting at wishing forgiveness from good to blaming god for what they have done, from saying things about the noose to things about burning, and from not caring about the victim's family to begging for forgiveness. Crazy stuff right? Sense the 1600s to the present, the last words of people on execution row have been noted and documented. The author of this book was able to do the time consuming work of cross-referencing these lasts words from many different sources to document and write this book. He did his best to explain what happened during each person's execution, their lasts words, and explains what law each person was being executed for. The author of this book used other sources to help him complete this book, some of these books or articles include "A Chronicle of Welch's Confession and Last Words" (1754), an autobiography "Cell 2455, Death Row", "Last Words and Dying Speech of Edmund Fortis" (1794), an article in the 'Salt Lake Tribune', and he used newspaper articles form the New York Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune. If you are not interested in knowing more in-detail about each method of execution, if you don't want to read stories of crimes and such, and you don't care to learn or read the last words of many people who have been executed, this book is not for you. If you are into strange, Criminal Justice, non fiction, death row, last words, or execution books like me, then this book is definitely for you. I recommend this book for all of whom are like me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago