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Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Peele
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

When a nineteen-year-old member of a Black Muslim cult assassinated Oakland newspaper editor Chauncey Bailey in 2007—the most shocking killing of a journalist in the United States in thirty years—the question was, Why? “I just wanted to be a good soldier, a strong soldier,” the killer told police.   A strong soldier for whom?

Killing the Messenger is a searing work of narrative nonfiction that explores one of the most blatant attacks on the First Amendment and free speech in American history and the small Black Muslim cult that carried it out. Award-winning investigative reporter Thomas Peele examines the Black Muslim movement from its founding in the early twentieth century by a con man who claimed to be God, to the height of power of the movement’s leading figure, Elijah Muhammad, to how the great-grandson of Texas slaves reinvented himself as a Muslim leader in Oakland and built the violent cult that the young gunman eventually joined. Peele delves into how charlatans exploited poor African Americans with tales from a religion they falsely claimed was Islam and the years of bloodshed that followed, from a human sacrifice in Detroit to police shootings of unarmed Muslims to the horrible backlash of racism known as the “zebra murders,” and finally to the brazen killing of Chauncey Bailey to stop him from publishing a newspaper story. 
 
Peele establishes direct lines between the violent Black Muslim organization run by Yusuf Bey in Oakland and the evangelicalism of the early prophets and messengers of the Nation of Islam.  Exposing the roots of the faith, Peele examines its forerunner, the Moorish Science Temple of America, which in the 1920s and ’30s preached to migrants from the South living in Chicago and Detroit ghettos that blacks were the world’s master race, tricked into slavery by white devils. In spite of the fantastical claims and hatred at its core, the Nation of Islam was able to build a following by appealing to the lack of identity common in slave descendants. 

In Oakland, Yusuf Bey built a cult through a business called Your Black Muslim Bakery, beating and raping dozens of women he claimed were his wives and fathering more than forty children.  Yet, Bey remained a prominent fixture in the community, and police looked the other way as his violent soldiers ruled the streets.
 
An enthralling narrative that combines a rich historical account with gritty urban reporting, Killing the Messenger is a mesmerizing story of how swindlers and con men abused the tragedy of racism and created a radical religion of bloodshed and fear that culminated in a journalist’s murder.

THOMAS PEELE is a digital investigative reporter for the Bay Area News Group and the Chauncey Bailey Project. He is also a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism.  His many honors include the Investigative Reporters and Editors Tom Renner Award for his reporting on organized crime, and the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage. He lives in Northern California.


Editorial Reviews

Review

An "urgent new book" ....  That "will be a revelation to many readers, detailing 100 years of American history that simply isn't part of the mainstream lexicon. Peele masterfully draws a line from the "radical faith" that the scars of slavery ... to the bullets that (killed) Chauncey Bailey" - San Francisco Chronicle.

Peele "leaves no stone unturned." He "illuminates each new character -- even if it means going back a generation or two  ...he shows how racism and oppression spawned a radical faith rooted in revenge." Youngstown Vindicator

Killing the Messenger is "an astonishing account" that is comparable to David Simon and The Wire, saying, "More than a gripping true-crime story, "Killing the Messenger" is an indictment of a corrupt and cowardly civic culture that isn't unique to Oakland." - Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"Killing the Messenger is very well written and researched. Like James Michener, Peele begins at the roots." It "may be the best, most thoroughly researched and ... most objective book ... on (the Black Muslims) and is, no doubt, destine to become required reading in many colleges and universities." - Columbia Journalism Review

“Gripping and insightful…A page-turner, in the tradition of great true-crime novels such as Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.” -- San Francisco Bay Guardian

“A story told with the authority and nuance that comes with exhaustive research…Without a doubt Killing the Messenger will stand as the definitive work on Bailey's murder and Oakland's Your Black Muslim Bakery.” – The Associated Press

“[A] chilling narrative…Peele’s undying integrity not only uncovers enough hard-hitting facts to thoroughly close both the investigation and the murder, but also restores our trust that justice can be served.”  -- Uptown Magazine

“A very well written and thoroughly researched book…Peele bring vital historical context to the contemporary aspects of his tale…Killing the Messenger may well be the best, most thoroughly researched, and – with exceptions noted – most objective book thus far written on the subject, and is no doubt destined to become required reading in many colleges and universities.  Hopefully it will also be read in prisons, to educate young black men that Tricknology comes in all colors.  If the devil is indeed in the details, Peele has given us many demons to exorcise.” – Columbia Journalism Review

“An astonishing account…Reading it, I kept flashing back to "The Wire," David Simon's devastating HBO series on the disintegration of the American city. There are details in this book that even Simon couldn't have dreamed up…Peele's writing is straightforward and free of sensationalism…More than a gripping true-crime story, Killing the Messenger is an indictment of a corrupt and cowardly civic culture that isn't unique to Oakland.” – Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Killing the Messenger will be a revelation to many readers, detailing 100 years of American history that simply isn't part of the mainstream lexicon. Peele masterfully draws a line from the "radical faith" that the scars of slavery and Jim Crow helped popularize to the bullets that turned Chauncey Bailey into "a First Amendment martyr."” – San Francisco Chronicle

“[Thomas Peele] is the kind of writer who can convert the passion of newswriting into an art form, even if it's a subject -- the assassination of a journalist, and the events that led up to it -- that's never pretty nor polished.  Indeed, he managed to take a complex subject -- the rise of a family in Oakland, Calif. that worshiped the Nation of Islam, and then conspired to assassinate a journalist to protect themselves -- and make it simple, dramatic and unique.” – Tom Davis, The Huffington Post

“The murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey and a family's violent rise to prominence is given gripping life…Compelling reading…And it is a chilling reminder of the murder and acts of intimidation that confront journalists around the world regularly. Seeking to bring light to the truth can be a dangerous pursuit, even here in the land of the free.” – LA Times

With a sense of immediacy and purpose, Peele reconstructs the story in gripping fashion. He is especially adept at describing personalities…Killing the Messenger leaves no stone unturned in its historical account. The author illuminates each new character — even if it means going back a generation or two — and then puts him into the context of the story. In doing so, he shows how racism and oppression spawned a radical faith rooted in revenge.” – Youngstown Vindicator

“A complex, carefully constructed story of the development of the Black Muslim Movement and one of its most notorious leaders.” – Kirkus

"[An] eye-opening narrative about radical religion and its consequences...Peele renders characters and scenes with rich detail and his chronicle of events surrounding Bailey’s death unfolds with the seamlessness of a fictional thriller, would that were the case.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“[A] riveting account.” - Booklist

“A riveting account of the events that led up to Bailey's murder…It is an exhaustively researched narrative that details the rise and fall of Your Black Muslim Bakery…[with] Sometimes stomach-churning detail.”  - Oakland Tribune

“This is totally chilling, incredibly strange material, and the book is sweeping, site-specific, and compulsively readable.” – The Observer’s Very Short List


Killing the Messenger is a crackling work of nonfiction, impossible to put down. Like Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, Thomas Peele unpacks a tale of extremism and evil spawned by another peculiar American religion, The Nation of Islam. The malicious leader Yusuf Bey and his murderous followers and sons in the Your Black Muslim Bakery cult wreaked bloody havoc on the Bay Area for decades, until finally brought down by their brazen killing of a community journalist, Chauncey Bailey.” - Nina Burleigh, New York Times bestselling author of The Fatal Gift of Beauty

“Tough, taut, and true! Killing the Messenger is a non-fiction noir trip through the dark side of religion, journalism, racial politics, and law enforcement. A REAL thriller." – Robert Lipsyte, author of An Accidental Sportswriter

“Peele exposes the sordid and homicidal history of the Nation of Islam and its offshoots. Yusuf Bey, like David Koresh and Jim Jones before him, was the leader of a cult of personality. While most members of any cult are essentially good but misguided people, Peele shows how anyone, no matter how well-intentioned, will do almost anything – including kill – if he believes his leader is divine. Chauncey Bailey was, sadly, a victim of Bey’s megalomania.” --Karl Evanzz, author of The Judas Factor and The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad

“Thomas Peele is one of the great investigative reporters working today.  His remarkable and obsessively researched book charts the trajectory of an Oakland crime family responsible for a string of murders. More important, perhaps, it exposes the willful myopia of the city officials and community leaders who allowed this outfit to operate over a span of decades.”  -A.C. Thompson, Investigative reporter, ProPublica and PBS Frontline

About the Author

THOMAS PEELE is a digital investigative reporter for the Bay Area News Group and the Chauncey Bailey Project. He is also a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism.  His many honors include the Investigative Reporters and Editors Tom Renner Award for his reporting on organized crime, and the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage. He lives in Northern California.


Product Details

  • File Size: 2403 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (February 7, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00540PB7S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #325,500 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
(27)
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sins of our Fathers March 16, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A black journalist, Chauncey Bailey is brutally murdered on the streets of Oakland. The man who ordered the hit is Yusuf Ali Bey IV (Fourth), head of a spin-off Black Muslim church and bakery. Why should we care? The answer comes at us in the form of an American history lesson called "Killing the Messenger: A Tale of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash and the Killing of a Journalist."

Fourth was the twenty-year old illegitimate son of church-bakery's founder, Yusuf Bey. The elder Bey raped Fourth's mother. Over the years, he had also raped Fourth, Fourth's sisters, brothers and aunts; he was said to have somewhere between forty and fifty children, all collecting some form of welfare support. Senior Bey owned expensive cars, lived in opulence, and wielded considerable power and influence in local and state politics. Fourth became head of the sect only when elder Bey was jailed for serial rapes of Fourth's thirteen year-old-sister. Given Fourth's life story, it's not difficult to understand that Fourth might become a sociopath who exhibited many of his father's traits plus murdering at least three people including Bailey. So, what about Bey senior? What's his story? Thomas Peele's answer is complex. It includes slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, KKK, red-lining, prejudice, racism, politics, and apathy. By digging for the rest of the story, Peele creates something akin to black history primer, part requiem for the lost, and part love song to Chauncey Bailey and all journalists everywhere. Read it, and weep.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessary analysis from a refreshingly new voice February 9, 2012
Format:Hardcover
Thomas Peele is a new voice, and a refreshing one. He managed to take a complex subject and make it simple, dramatic and unique. What's amazing about "Killing the Messenger" is that it so easily blends two topics that have been largely unexplored: The rise and metamorphoses of a certain societal sect that has been alternately popularized and ridiculed; and the safety and sanctity of a profession - journalism - that is under siege, and not just economically. We learn that these areas of life are alive and well, even as they merged violently when Chauncey Bailey, a journalist himself, was gunned down as he pursued a story about a family and its connection to the Black Muslim movement. We learn that, despite the fact that the journalism profession is threatened more often than people realize by this violence, on top of its own economic instability, journalists like Peele and Bailey still go to work every day, pursuing the truth, no matter what the risk. That's what Peele did, doggedly picking up and finishing the story that Bailey wanted to write about a family that exhibited a remarkable amount of power in Oakland, Calif. while carrying the banner of a movement. As I said, Thomas Peele's writing is a refreshing new voice in a literary world that seriously needs him. He has the street-tough story-telling ability of Elmore Leonard, only better. I doubt that there are others who take such topics and blend them together in a book as well as he did, a book that provides both a history lesson but also a necessarily analysis. Woven between the points of history that depict the lingering violence in one of America's major cities are the personal stories of the Bey family, Chauncey Bailey and of Peele himself, who eloquently describes how he harnessed what was a news tip into a story, then a series of stories, then a project and, ultimately, a book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting Non-fiction that Reads Like a Thriller February 8, 2012
Format:Hardcover
In KILLING THE MESSENGER, journalist Thomas Peele investigates a dangerous, out of control cult that terrorized the city of Oakland for decades before it was exposed after its leader ordered the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey, who was writing a story about the cult. The book calls to mind the phrase, reality is stranger than fiction. I felt like I was reading a fast-paced thriller. It's chilling to think that this story is actually true, and that it took place in modern America. It's an intelligent exploration of a tragic crime, and the greater context of the history of the Black Muslim movement. Fans of Krakauer's UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN will love this book.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Bill Z.
Format:Hardcover
Thomas Peele's "Killing the Messenger" is sweeping in its scope. It not only places Chauncey Bailey's assassination in historical context, it shines a light on some of the most corrupt quasi-religious "leaders" in America. It's a great read, and while you may not have heard of Chauncey Bailey, his killing is symbolic of more sinister forces at work in silencing journalists.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The unvarnished truth, insightful and a great read!! February 24, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Killing the Messenger" is much more than a window into a world of deceit, greed, social injustice and malaise and a legal and political system fraught with cynicism and malfunction. It also provides a glimpse into the history into Black Muslim movement and how such a diabolical group could find purchase in the hearts and minds of some Black Americans. It also lifts a veil on the historical inner workings of journalism in our country and the damage that can be done by a lack of objectivity.

All this is contained in a book that can also be described as a real page turner that is anything but dry or preachy.

The work done by Thomas Peele and all those involved in the Chauncey Bailey Project is to be commended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder was the tip of the iceberg February 16, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
By GUY D'ASTOLFO

In "Killing the Messenger: A Tale of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash and the Killing of a Journalist," author Thomas Peele starts with a murder and digs around it until he has uncovered the history of the Black Muslim movement in America.
With a sense of immediacy and a descriptive eye, Peele unearths a story of America that only cracked the surface when a journalist was gunned down on an Oakland, Calif., street in 2007.
As an investigative reporter for a newspaper in the East Bay area that surrounds Oakland, the slaying of Chauncey Bailey by members of the Black Muslim cult was right in Peele's wheelhouse. The author hit it out of the park.
"Killing the Messenger" puts the reader into the inner sanctum of Your Black Muslim Bakery, a North Oakland institution run by Yusuf Ali Bey, and after his death, his son Yusuf Ali Bey IV. The author recreates conversations that would have shocked those outside its walls.
Both Beys lived as gods in their compounds, preaching hatred for whites and black self-sufficiency. They surrounded themselves with "soldiers," culled from the ghetto streets and mostly ex-cons, who would kill or die for him. Women were kept as sex slaves, sworn to submissiveness.
The sadistic elder Bey raped women and children at will in his compound while his fearful minions looked the other way. Murder, government fraud and a host of other illicit activities were also overseen by Bey and later, his son.
"Killing the Messenger" starts with the cold-blooded murder of Chauncey Bailey, a reporter for a black newspaper in Oakland who was writing an expose on the Bey cult. After laying the historical groundwork, the book then barrels back toward its starting point.
As the title suggests, Peele takes pains to illustrate how racial oppression gave rise to the radical pseudo-religion. Later in the book, he uncovers the shoddy inner workings of Oakland City Hall and its undermanned police force.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An in depth look into the inner workings of today's Muslim religion
A great book that was difficult to put down. A real eye opener as to the extensive corruption that takes place within the Muslim mosques when one man uses his position to control... Read more
Published 3 months ago by James Poynor
4.0 out of 5 stars Great discussion of Oakland politics and religion as dynasty
This book is a discussion of the murder of a journalist who touched the third rail of Oakland, CA politics, by investigating Black Muslims. Read more
Published 14 months ago by bette
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring read
Author sounded like he was writing to highlight his exploits rather than for the interested reader. A subject of interest but poorly written.
Published 14 months ago by R. Sheppard
5.0 out of 5 stars Rest in Peace, Brother Chauncey
Chauncey Bailey, editor-in-chief of the Oakland Post, was shot dead on the morning of August 2, 2007. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Troy Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read
Very informative. Should be required reading in high school.
The story takes you from the civil war up till today. Read more
Published 17 months ago by buyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for Bay Area citizens
Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist

Thomas Peele has investigated the background of the murder of a... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Adele Fasick
5.0 out of 5 stars The evil among us
Monsters are not always those whose heads spin around or have scary faces. Evil can draw others into their web of horrors and those who should be able to stop it are duped as... Read more
Published on August 12, 2012 by wjb
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing book...
Thomas Peele has written an extraordinary book that will appeal to a cross-section of audiences....media buffs, historians. Or anyone who cares about people. Read more
Published on June 30, 2012 by The Golf God
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling True Crime
An amazing book that weaves the past and present, puts a modern crime in context of how past events lead to it. I live in Oakland, which perhaps made it an even better story. Read more
Published on June 5, 2012 by Grace S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Didn't want to put it down
Gripping to read and exhaustively researched, this is an important book. Peele is a dogged investigative reporter and he goes all out to shine a blinding light of scrutiny on both... Read more
Published on June 3, 2012 by Will E.
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