To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation Paperback – June 23, 2009
"The Black Presidency"
Rated by Vanity Fair as one of our most lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today, this book is a provocative and lively look into the meaning of America's first black presidency. Learn more
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Whitaker has . . . placed the massacre and the Supreme Court decision in their full legal and historical context. At the same time, he has revived the story of a great African American
lawyer, Scipio Africanus Jones."
—New York Times Book Review
"Robert Whitaker unearths a dark historical event in a creative and powerful way. Don't miss this book!"
–Cornel West, author of Race Matters
“State-sponsored terrorism is not a new phenomenon in American history; for nearly a century, it was part of the daily lot of African Americans living in the Jim Crow South. Nowhere was that reality more brutally revealed than in Phillips County, Arkansas, where in 1919 a white mob, deputized by state authorities and assisted by units of the U.S. Army, slaughtered some two hundred men, women, and children – sharecroppers whose sole offense was organizing to obtain a fair price for the cotton they grew. Robert Whitaker has reconstructed this long-forgotten episode in riveting detail. His book plumbs the depths of hatred and injustice, yet it is also a story of hope, embodied in the unlikely figure of attorney Scipio Africanus Jones, a former slave, whose dogged defense of survivors of the massacre prevented a legal lynching and changed the face of American jurisprudence.
—James T. Campbell, author of Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005, finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History and winner of the Mark Lynton History Prize
“At the heart of this masterful narrative is Scipio Jones, a man born a slave, who became one of this country's greatest lawyers. During the awful period of racial ethnic cleansing that convulsed our country for so long, Jones turned an American tragedy into an American triumph. Bob Whitaker gives an account of a footnote of our history that is at the heart of what we aim at our best, to be as a nation. On these pages, there is an admirable and confident understanding of the ultimate scale of these events. Whitaker casts an unstinting eye back at America's brutal racial past and the power of individuals, black and white to shape individual and national destiny.”
—Marita Golden, author of Don't Play in the Sun: One Woman's Journey Through the Color Complex
“Like the classic Gideon's Trumpet, On theLaps of Gods tells the dramatic story of how extraordinary citizens fought for a basic right–in this case to a fair and proper trial–that became fundamental to our national identity. This tale alone, and Whitaker's portrayal of attorney Scipio Africanus Jones, would have made for a great book, but he gives us much more as he brings alive the tragic and oft-forgotten details of racial violence in the American heartland and reveals a history that can make us weep and also cheer. Startling, artful, and filled with truth, this is an important and compelling book.”
—Michael D'Antonio, author of The State Boys Rebellion and Hershey
From the Hardcover edition.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Whitaker paints a lesson for us all. In a day when the US government easily condemns lack of freedom for citizens of other countries, we must look back on our own recent past. It is an agonizing moral dilemma and should tax our own moral code. The hero here is Scipio Africanus Jones, born a slave who rose to practice law and free the 87 Arkansas prisoners falsely accused of murder by collusion of the courts and the law and who faced either long prison sentences or execution. WHAT A STORY.
What happened on the night of September 30, 1919 has been seared into the collective memory of all blacks affiliated with the Helena area. On that night, a group of Black sharecroppers, who had gotten tired of years of being cheated out of their fair share of their cotton crops, decided to take matters into their own hands by forming a union with the intention of petitioning and eventually suing their landowners to redress this long-running economic inequity and injustice.
This injustice, incidentally was common practice used against black farmers, whether sharecroppers or not, and existed all over not just Arkansas, but all over the South. As a small boy, I can distinctly remember my grandfather, Silas Brown, who was not a sharecropper, but happened to own his own proverbial "forty acres and two mules (Blue and Cake)," bitterly complaining about how he too was being cheated out of his cotton crop by the unscrupulous "buyers and ginners of cotton.Read more ›
It's quite an interesting story. First, imagine some illiterate, dirt-poor, African-American sharecroppers in the heart of the Delta in the early part of the 20th century trying to organize a union. This then becomes a pretext for - there's no getting around - an out-and-out massacre. This massacre includes bands of Whites from over an extended area hunting African-Americans down like deer. Next, pull in the state militia and have them machine gun the hiding places where the African-Americans have fled. Finally, round up over 100 African-Americans and try them for murder. While you're at it, though, make sure you torture them with beatings, electric shocks, and drugs so they will be sure to perjure themselves.
Yup, it all actually happened, right here in these United States. Depressing as this all sounds, the book is actually quite uplifting. The hero of the story is a local lawyer, born a slave, who takes on the case and never gives up - taking it all the way to the Supreme Court, where it's actually reversed and becomes a milestone in combating states rights and making the 14th Amendment actually work.
Never heard of it? That's not too surprising. African-American history, especially what happened between the Civil War and the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, is hidden history.
I've actually read a ton of these books. This one seems particularly good to me. First, it's the only one I know that treats this particular (very important and very interesting) incident. Just as important, though, it is very well written.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a piece of American history.... not sure why it wasn't something that I learned in school. History shouldn't be "white-washed".... pun intended... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Susan Powell
Excellent book with historical accuracy re the most horrific racial massacre in U.S. history. It is part of our history that should never be forgotten. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Mary Olson
Enjoyed learning some of the history of a state I've lived in all my life, but never heard about these events. I normally read fiction. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Amazon Customer
I am a "son of the south," having been raised in Memphis and my mother from DesArc & Hot Springs. I was born shortly after Jones' death. Read morePublished on February 26, 2013 by Philip B. Winston
Excellent and very informative. Should be required reading for all but especially those of African American decent.I would recommend this book highly.Published on February 9, 2013 by J. Williams
Well written, well researched. This book tells a sad, sad story, yet, the ultimate outcome is a victory - however small.Published on December 21, 2012 by chris
Where to begin praising this book? I bought it after reading two other books by the same author, both of them fierce and rigorous critiques of the psychiatric establishment. Read morePublished on March 5, 2011 by Emily Zimmerman
This book well-deserves the nine great reviews above (the one-star being a product complaint, whose author is forced to admit "it's a great book.")
That said, Mr. Read more