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Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America Paperback – February 19, 2013
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“Superb.” (Junot Diaz, author of This Is How You Lose Her )
“A powerful and well-told drama of Southern injustice.” (The Chicago Tribune )
“Devil in the Grove is a compelling look at the case that forged Thurgood Marshall’s perception of himself as a crusader for civil rights. . . . King’s style [is] at once suspenseful and historically meticulous” (Christian Science Monitor )
“Recreates an important yet overlooked moment in American history with a chilling, atmospheric narrative that reads more like a Southern Gothic novel than a work of history.” (Salon )
“A taut, intensely readable narrative.” (Boston Globe )
“The story’s drama and pathos make it a page-turner, but King’s attention to detail, fresh material, and evenhanded treatment of the villains make it a worthy contribution to the history of the period, while offering valuable insight into Marshall’s work and life.” (Publishers Weekly )
“A thoroughgoing study of one of the most important civil-rights cases argued by Thurgood Marshall in dismantling Jim Crow strictures. . . . Deeply researched and superbly composed.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review) )
“A compelling chronicle.” (Booklist )
“Gripping. . . . Lively and multidimensional.” (Dallas Morning News )
“The tragic Groveland saga -- with its Faulknerian echoes of racial injustice spinning around an accusation of rape -- comes astonishingly alive in Gilbert King’s narrative. It is both heartbreaking and unforgettable.” (Wil Haygood, author of King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. )
From the Back Cover
Devil in the Grove is the winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.
Arguably the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century, Thurgood Marshall was on the verge of bringing the landmark suit Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court when he became embroiled in a case that threatened to change the course of the civil rights movement and cost him his life.
In 1949, Florida's orange industry was booming, and citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor with the help of Sheriff Willis V. McCall, who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a white seventeen-year-old girl cried rape, McCall pursued four young blacks who dared envision a future for themselves beyond the groves. The Ku Klux Klan joined the hunt, hell-bent on lynching the men who came to be known as "the Groveland Boys."
Associates thought it was suicidal for Marshall to wade into the "Florida Terror," but the young lawyer would not shrink from the fight despite continuous death threats against him.
Drawing on a wealth of never-before-published material, including the FBI's unredacted Groveland case files, as well as unprecedented access to the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund files, Gilbert King shines new light on this remarkable civil rights crusader.
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I've been trying to learn more about what happened to the people involved beyond that. According to Wikipedia, Moore's daughter Evangeline became a civil rights activist herself and passed away in 2015. Walter Irvin apparently died in 1967 or 69. BUT WHAT I WANT TO KNOW is whatever happened to Norma Padgett - she was 17 in 1949, 10 years older than myself, so she might very well still be alive and well somewhere. She started the whole Groveland tragedy and, it seems, has just slipped through the cracks of history. If she was never called upon to answer for her actions, I would really really love to find out if she at least ever had regrets. Mr. King, can you shed any light on Norma???
I did have the audiobook with my Kindle edition, the narration is great.
I recommend this book.
Top international reviews
One thing I did find interesting is King's portrayal of Thurgood Marshall. He wasn't perfect. He stood for great things and he did great things, but in his personal life he was less than inspiring. It certainly brings complexity to his character. Plus, on the back of the book Marshall gets all the credit for fighting the dangerous battle in Lake County for the Groveland boys, yet he really only entered the case towards the end. Most of the real dangerous work was carried out by his colleague Franklin Williams. Williams should have been given more credit.
That said, this book is a must read for anyone interested in American history, and of course, the history of race relations in the US. But it is worth a read even if you are not an amateur historian. It reads fast and is definitely better than fiction.
The story of 'The Groveland Boys' is shocking in the extreme, and Gilbert King tells it in a way that allows us to draw our own conclusions as to the magnitude of the crimes that were committed by government, officials and individuals in equal measure. In short, crimes committed by nearly everyone involved ,other than those poor boys themselves.
This book is a clear reminder for us all of the dangers of what evils can still lurk within us all.
No one can read this and not be moved.