Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice (Scholastic Focus)

Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice (Scholastic Focus)

by Lawrence Goldstone


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The riveting story of how the Supreme Court turned a blind eye on justice, stripped away the equal rights promised to all Americans, and ushered in the era of Jim Crow.

On Easter Sunday of 1873, just eight years after the Civil War ended, a band of white supremacists marched into Grant Parish, Louisiana, and massacred over one hundred unarmed African Americans. The court case that followed reached the highest court in the land. Yet, following one of the most ghastly incidents of mass murder in American history, not one person was convicted.The opinion issued by the Supreme Court in US v. Cruikshank set in motion a process that would help create a society in which black Americans were oppressed and denied basic human rights -- legally, according to the courts. These injustices paved the way for Jim Crow and would last for the next hundred years. Many continue to exist to this day.In this compelling and thoroughly researched volume for young readers, Lawrence Goldstone traces the evolution of the law and the fascinating characters involved in the story of how the Supreme Court helped institutionalize racism in the American justice system.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781338239454
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 08/28/2018
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 802,999
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Lawrence Goldstone is the author of Stolen Justice: The Struggle for African American Voting Rights, which School Library Journal declared in a starred review: "A must-buy for all high school collections"; and Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice, which Booklist's starred review called "gripping . . . and a well-informed perspective on American history." He is also the author of more than a dozen books for adults, including four on Constitutional law. He lives in Sagaponack, New York, with his wife, medieval and Renaissance historian Nancy Goldstone.

Read an Excerpt

The Redeemers had been determined to kill every black man they could find, but some survived, many of them with terrible wounds. And thus Levi Nelson lived to bear witness to what would be known in the North as the Colfax Massacre.But not in the South. There, and in some Democratic newspapers in the North, such as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the incident was referred to as the Colfax Riot. The Daily Eagle, which boasted "the largest circulation of any evening newspaper published in the United States," blamed the incident entirely on the freedmen, claiming, without any proof or eyewitness testimony, that James Hadnot had been shot down in cold blood after offering a flag of truce, and that the white invaders had merely taken possession of government buildings that were rightfully theirs, all with a minimum of force. A memorial headstone was later erected in Louisiana in honor of the three Redeemers "who fell in the Colfax Riot fighting for white supremacy."The tragedy of Colfax did not end with the massacre, however, but in the most hallowed courtroom in the land, a place where the Founding Fathers, in particular Alexander Hamilton, had promised that the rights of oppressed citizens would be protected.The story of Colfax, then, is the story of America, and it begins where America began, in the State House in Philadelphia, now known as Independence Hall. From there, a new Constitution was issued, signed on September 17, 1787, which spawned a series of great battles that determined not only the laws of the new nation, but also its soul. Those battles continue today.

Table of Contents

Foreword Angela Onwuachi-Willig xi

Prologue: Bloody Easter Levi Nelson xv

1 A New Government Alexander Hamilton "Brutus" 1

2 The Supreme Court is Born John Marshall 13

3 Less Than Human Roger Taney Dred Scott 18

4 Remaking America Andrew Johnson Thaddeus Stevens 33

5 Some Odd Arithmetic-Who Won the War? 50

6 Two Amendments and a Dream of Equality John Bingham 57

7 The Klan Nathan Bedford Forrest Mary Polk Branch 69

8 Reconstruction in Black and White Harriet Ann Jacobs Frank Alexander Montgomery 80

9 An Island for Freedmen Colfax 90

10 Fraud Runs Wild Samuel McEnery William Kellogg 101

11 Reconstruction Ascendant Blanche K. Bruce 120

12 Massacre James Hadnot 134

13 The Wheels of Justice J. R. Beckwith 141

14 Civil Rights on Trial 151

15 Is Justice Language or an Idea? Joseph P. Bradley 162

16 The Most Important Judge in the Nation Morrison Waite 178

17 Civil Rights Charles Sumner 188

18 One Hundred Years of Freedom Philadelphia and the White League 197

19 The End of the Line 210

20 President by One Vote-The Fifteenth Man 215

Epilogue: Unpunished Murder 223

Glossary 227

Bibliography 235

Source Notes 241

Illustration and Photograph Credits 247

Index 249

Acknowledgements 263

About the Author 265

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