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Rising Road: A True Tale of Love, Race, and Religion in America Hardcover – February 16, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0195379792 ISBN-10: 0195379799 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195379799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195379792
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.4 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #840,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is a reverse whodunit: we know who committed the crime but not—though we can guess—whether he'll be convicted. Since it takes place in 1921 Birmingham, Ala., the story's likely to involve race, gender relations, family authority, and religion, and not to be pretty. Davies, a professor of law at Ohio State, knows her way through the thickets of criminal proceedings and the ways of adversarial attorneys. She also mines trial transcripts for all they're worth. One of the defense lawyers is none other than Hugo Black, later a Supreme Court Justice but here a supporter of the Klan, which he would soon join. When all is over, the murderer, a white Protestant, goes free after killing a Catholic priest and expressing, like most in the courtroom, just about every vulgar prejudice of the day. Davies leaves almost no detail unmentioned, when a novelist's way of letting one fact stand in for many others would have made the story move more quickly. But this is an illustrative tale about its time, well worth the telling. 15 b& photos. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review


"A wonderful reconstruction of an illuminating piece of American legal history. It should appeal not only to scholars of race, gender, and religion in the Jim Crow south but also to anyone who enjoys a dramatic legal yarn." --The Journal of Southern History


"First-rate history. Detailed yet fast-paced, it lays bare the common, deep-rooted bigotry of a region and era that made the jury verdict predictable. Davies' fascinating book is an excellent work of narrative history. Rising Road deserves a wide audience."--Columbus Dispatch


"An illustrative tale about its time, well worth the telling."--Publishers Weekly


"Gripping...a fine work of history [with] notable economy, clarity, and quality research."--Jim Cullen, History News Network


"In this exquisite book, Sharon Davies takes us deep into the dark heart of the Jim Crow South, where she uncovers a searing story of love, faith, bigotry and violence. Rising Road is a history so powerful, so compelling it stays with you long after you've finished its final page."--Kevin Boyle, author of the National Book Award-winning Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age


"A deep knowledge of Southern and legal history, and of the dramatic give-and-take of criminal trials, allows this compelling human story of religion, race and murder to show how the barbarities of 1920s Alabama had played out in families, courts and politics."--David Roediger, Professor of History at University of Illinois and author of How Race Survived U.S. History


"Sharon Davies skillfully traces how an open-and-shut case unraveled. That the outcome seemed foreordained did not inhibit Davies from writing a gripping trial history." - Christian Century


"...capture[s] in rich detail the irrational and complex interplay among race, religion, and "otherness" in the post-World War I Jim Crow South."--The Journal of Southern Religion


Customer Reviews

This is neither a pretty picture nor one that will make the reader feel good.
James W. Durney
A well written, thought provoking and interesting book that immediately engages its reader, I heartily recommend this book.
G.I Gurdjieff
In this true to life story; Rising road author Sharon Davies sets the reader in Birmingham Alabama in the early 1900's.
M. A. Filippelli

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Middle-aged Professor on January 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rising Road takes one of the first "trials of the century," the murder of a catholic priest in 1920's Birmingham, Alabama, and brings it vividly to life. Like the best works in this nonfiction genre, such as Arc of Justice or Seabiscuit, the author turns what must have been painstaking historical research into a page-turning narrative that places us in the United States of 100 years ago in fully realized detail. What is so wonderful about this book are the combination of a great story--love, race, religion, family conflict--with celebrity added in (future Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black has a prominent part) together with fascinating social history and, to top it off, an "inside look" at a criminal case from the expert perspective of a law professor and former prosecutor. I learned a great deal from this book while enjoying it like a novel. Although there are very few living souls who can remember the events recounted in Rising Road (and one suspects Davies must have tracked them down and interviewed them), very few readers of this book will ever forget them. I know I wont. Highly recommended.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Note Taker on February 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
My first thought after reading Ms. Davies Rising Road was "I can't wait for her next book." As an academic librarian, with an interest in history, sociology, anthropology and politics, I have read many non-fiction works written for the academic scholar. What a pleasure it was to find myself reading a page-turner that was both informative and entertaining. I especially enjoyed it when Ms. Davies interjected witty editorial comments into the narration. They acted to draw the reader further in to become part of the story. Her courtroom descriptions are detailed enough to satisfy any attorney reading the book, but are clear enough to be understood by the layperson. I would certainly not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone with an interest in legal studies, history, and woman's studies.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Plum W on January 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written book that captures your attention from the very first page. Although it's a true story it reads more like a novel, with the same sort of page-turning excitement as the story builds. I generally don't like non-fiction but this was a fascinating book. The author manages to convey the sense of time and place so well that I could see this as a movie in my mind.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By G.I Gurdjieff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Funded by the Ohio State University's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and and Ethnicity, this book revisits a long forgotten trial which exposed prevalent attitudes toward race and bigotry in the early 20th century.
Fundamentally what occured was the only child of a Methodist minister, Ruth Stephenson, converted to Catholicism and married a Puerto Rican immigrant named Pedro 'Pete' Gussman in a catholic ceremony against her parents wishes. Ruth's father(Rev. Edwin Stephenson) was infuriated by the action and confronted the priest (James Doyle) who performed the marriage and killed Fr. Doyle at point blank range leaving a large whole in the priest's left temple.
In 1921, when the murder occured in Birmingham AL, most (if not all) states had laws on their books banning marriage between whites and non-whites. While racism was present in even the most northern of states, the climate in the deep south was nothing less than explosive. In mounting the defense of Rev. Stephenson, future Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black was retained. While known as an advocate of civil rights during his tenure in the Court, this was light years away. In order to subsidize the defense, the Ku Klux Klan sponsored benefits. In fact, Black eventually joined the Klan. Stephenson's defense team, using a plea of temporary insanity, pandered to the most basic fears of the white protestant populus by using race and religion to justify Stephenson's actions.
From a legal perspective, author Sharon Davies has done a magnificent job of walking her reader through the legal atmosphere of a time some 90 years ago and the prevelant attitudes toward race and religion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on July 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Title Rising Road: A True Tale of Love, Race, and Religion in America
Author Sharon Davies
Rating ****
Tags non-fiction, history, birmingham, alabama, anti-catholicism, ku klux klan, murder, trial

Rising Road is one of those histories that illustrates a specific time and place and uses that to explain something about a culture. The time is 1021, and the place is Birmingham, Alabama. The country is going through one of its periodic bouts of anti-immigrant feeling, which is tied up with strong anti-Catholic feeling. Anti-Catholic publications have millions of readers. In Birmingham, one of the strongest defenders of Catholicism is Father James Coyle, pastor of St. Paul's.

Edwin Stephenson was a staunch anti-Catholic He had been a barber, but after an injury couldn't stand all day and used his ordination as a deacon to marry couples at the Jefferson County courthouse a few doors down from St. Paul's. His daughter Ruth, to the horror of Stephenson and his wife, showed an attraction to Catholicism from the time she was twelve. Some time after her eighteenth birthday, she joined the Catholic Church and Father Coyle married her to a Catholic man originally from Puerto Rico, Pedro Gussman. A few hours later, Edwin Stephenson went to Father Coyle's house and shot and killed him.

The trial, of course, was a sensation. The Catholic community was outraged. The Klan supported Stephenson - in fact the author discovered that the Klan paid fro Stephenson's defense, which was headed by Hugo Black, future Supreme court justice. There are also indications that there were Klansmen on the jury.

Sharon Davies tells the story well. She does a good job of giving a sense of the people involved.
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Rising Road: A True Tale of Love, Race, and Religion in America
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