Racial Reckoning: Prosecuting America's Civil Rights Murders

Racial Reckoning: Prosecuting America's Civil Rights Murders

by Renee C. Romano


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Few whites who violently resisted the civil rights struggle were charged with crimes in the 1950s and 1960s. But the tide of a long-deferred justice began to change in 1994, when a Mississippi jury convicted Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers. Since then, more than one hundred murder cases have been reopened, resulting in more than a dozen trials. But how much did these public trials contribute to a public reckoning with America’s racist past? Racial Reckoning investigates that question, along with the political pressures and cultural forces that compelled the legal system to revisit these decades-old crimes.

“[A] timely and significant work…Romano brilliantly demystifies the false binary of villainous white men like Beckwith or Edgar Ray Killen who represent vestiges of a violent racial past with a more enlightened color-blind society…Considering the current partisan and racial divide over the prosecution of police shootings of unarmed black men, this book is a must-read for historians, legal analysts, and journalists interested in understanding the larger meanings of civil rights or racially explosive trials in America.”
—Chanelle Rose, American Historical Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674976030
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/08/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Renee C. Romano is Professor of History, Comparative American Studies, and Africana Studies at Oberlin College.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Exhuming the Past 1

1 Crimes and Complicity during the Civil Rights Era 15

2 "Jim Crow" Justice 42

3 Reopening Civil Rights-Era Murder Cases 66

4 Civil Rights Crimes in the Courtroom 105

5 Civil Rights Trials and Narratives of Redemption 142

6 From Legal Justice to Social Justice 169

Conclusion: "We Are All Mississippians" 199

Notes 209

Acknowledgments 257

Index 261

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