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The Color of the Law: Race, Violence, and Justice in the Post-World War II South (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture) [Kindle Edition]

Gail Williams O'Brien
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

On February 25, 1946, African Americans in Columbia, Tennessee, averted the lynching of James Stephenson, a nineteen-year-old, black Navy veteran accused of attacking a white radio repairman at a local department store. That night, after Stephenson was safely out of town, four of Columbia's police officers were shot and wounded when they tried to enter the town's black business district. The next morning, the Tennessee Highway Patrol invaded the district, wrecking establishments and beating men as they arrested them. By day's end, more than one hundred African Americans had been jailed. Two days later, highway patrolmen killed two of the arrestees while they were awaiting release from jail.

Drawing on oral interviews and a rich array of written sources, Gail Williams O'Brien tells the dramatic story of the Columbia "race riot," the national attention it drew, and its surprising legal aftermath. In the process, she illuminates the effects of World War II on race relations and the criminal justice system in the United States. O'Brien argues that the Columbia events are emblematic of a nationwide shift during the 1940s from mob violence against African Americans to increased confrontations between blacks and the police and courts. As such, they reveal the history behind such contemporary conflicts as the Rodney King and O. J. Simpson cases.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Southern race relations in the years immediately following World War II and their implications for the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s have recently attracted more attention from popular and academic writers. Historian OBrien (North Carolina State Univ.) examines an averted 1946 lynching and its aftermath in the small community of Columbia, TN. Among the significant contributions of her work is the light it sheds on the connections between the events of 1946 and the communitys race relations in earlier decades; she also discusses the leadership that middle-class African Americans provided for others in Columbias black community during this crisis. The value of the book is only slightly reduced by OBriens predilection for expressing conclusions with a higher degree of certitude than the evidence appears to warrant. For history and Civil Rights collections in academic libraries.Thomas H. Ferrell, Univ. of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

O'Brien explores the circumstances surrounding an aborted lynching in Columbia, Tennessee, at the end of World War II to illustrate transitions that were occurring in race relations during that period. Seething racial tensions boiled over into an attempted lynching, triggered by a relatively minor incident--a black man's attempt to get a radio repaired. Black veterans returning from the war resisted what had been typical practice of venting racial animosity by lynching, triggering a movement in the larger black community from passivity to resistance. O'Brien relates the broader sociological implications of that resistance and focuses on individuals and their actions. For example, the sheriff who, in an effort to protect the intended victim, allowed him to escape. O'Brien also explores the interplay between the criminal-justice system of the old South and the broader political context that included increasing civil rights activism, the progressive labor movement, and the increasing outmigration of both whites and blacks. Vernon Ford

Product Details

  • File Size: 1104 KB
  • Print Length: 358 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0807824755
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (May 31, 1999)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,692,933 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Color of the Law May 29, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A well written book in which the author tells the history of the Race Riot in Columbia, Tennessee. The incident took place February 25, 1946. The author's account clarifies and affirms what I was told as a boy growing up in Columbia. Calvin Lockridge and Raymond Lockridge are my deceased uncles. James "Popeye" Bellefant is the deceased father of one of my classmates and friends. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a better understanding of the race conditions in this country at that time, and in some cases the sentiments continue today
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1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great June 13, 2000
This was a great book telling how the laws prejudeces i reccomend it to anybody interested in the truth.
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