The Thirteenth Turn: A History of the Noose

The Thirteenth Turn: A History of the Noose

by Jack Shuler
The Thirteenth Turn: A History of the Noose

The Thirteenth Turn: A History of the Noose

by Jack Shuler


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The story of a rope, a symbol, and rough justice in America.

The hangman's knot is a simple thing to tie, just a rope carefully coiled around itself up to thirteen times. But in those thirteen turns lie a powerful symbol, one that is all too deeply connected to America's past -- and present.

The last man to be hanged in the United States was Billy Bailey, who was executed in Delaware in 1996 for committing a double murder. Even today, hanging is still legal, in certain situations, in New Hampshire and Washington. And the noose remains a potent cultural symbol. An incident in Jena, Louisiana, in 2006, in which nooses were used to menace black students, made national news. Yet little has changed: according to author Jack Shuler, there have been nearly 100 noose incidents just in the last two years.

The Thirteenth Turn unravels these stories, from Judas Iscariot, perhaps the most infamous hanged man, to the killing of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, the murderers at the heart of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, and beyond. In his travels across America, Shuler traces the evolution of this dark practice. As he investigates the death of John Brown, or the 1930 lynching that inspired the song Strange Fruit, he finds that the very places that perpetrated these acts now seek to forget them.

Shuler's account is a kind of shadow history of America: a reminder that vigilantes and hangmen play a crucial role in our national story. The Thirteenth Turn is a courageous and searching book that reminds us where we come from, and what is lost if we forget.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781610391368
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 08/26/2014
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Jack Shuler holds the John and Christine Warner Chair at Denison University, where he is an associate professor teaching American literature and Black Studies. He is the author of two books on the nexus of race and violence in America, Calling Out Liberty and Blood and Bone. Shuler's criticism, interviews, reviews, and poems have appeared in the Columbia Journal of American Studies, Journal of Southern History, South Carolina Review, Southern Studies, and Failbetter, among others. He lives in Ohio.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments vii
Preface 1

CHAPTER 1 The Thirteenth Turn: Origins of the Noose, 11
CHAPTER 2 Rope, Ritual, Roots: The Iron Age Hanging of Tollund Man, 27
CHAPTER 3 An Ignoble Death: Hanging from the Roman Empire to Medieval
Europe, 39

CHAPTER 4 At the Crossroads:The Spectacle of Hanging in Colonial New
York, 55
CHAPTER 5 Hanging Hannah Occuish in Post-Revolution America, 81
CHAPTER 6 Meteors of War: Death by Hanging and the End of Slavery, 99
CHAPTER 7 The Noose in the Museum: Hanging and Native America, 127

CHAPTER 8 Alone from a Tree: Lynching in the Post-Reconstruction South,159
CHAPTER 9 A Story of Hands: An Early Twentieth-Century Lynching in the
American Midwest, 183
CHAPTER 10 Strange Fruit:The Legacy of Marion, 201

CHAPTER 11 When the Gallows Come Down, 221
CHAPTER 12 The New Burning Cross, 239
CHAPTER 13 The Noose in Our World, 267

Notes 281
Sources 323
Selected Bibliography 325
Index 337

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