The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law, and Justice in the Reconstruction Era

Oxford University Press
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In June 1870, the residents of the city of New Orleans were already on edge when two African American women kidnapped seventeen-month-old Mollie Digby from in front of her New Orleans home. It was the height of Radical Reconstruction, and the old racial order had been turned upside down: black men now voted, held office, sat on juries, and served as policemen. Nervous white residents, certain that the end of slavery and resulting "Africanization" of the city would bring chaos, pointed to the Digby abduction as proof that no white child was safe. Louisiana's twenty-eight-year old Reconstruction governor, Henry Clay Warmoth, hoping to use the investigation of the kidnapping to validate his newly integrated police force to the highly suspicious white population of New Orleans, saw to it that the city's best Afro-Creole detective, John Baptiste Jourdain, was put on the case, and offered a huge reward for the return of Mollie Digby and the capture of her kidnappers. When the Associated Press sent the story out on the wire, newspaper readers around the country began to follow the New Orleans mystery. Eventually, police and prosecutors put two strikingly beautiful Afro-Creole women on trial for the crime, and interest in the case exploded as a tense courtroom drama unfolded. In The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, Michael Ross offers the first full account of this event that electrified the South at one of the most critical moments in the history of American race relations. Tracing the crime from the moment it was committed through the highly publicized investigation and sensationalized trial that followed, all the while chronicling the public outcry and escalating hysteria as news and rumors surrounding the crime spread, Ross paints a vivid picture of the Reconstruction-era South and the complexities and possibilities that faced the newly integrated society. Leading readers into smoke-filled concert saloons, Garden District drawing rooms, sweltering courthouses, and squalid prisons, Ross brings this fascinating era back to life. A stunning work of historical recreation, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case is sure to captivate anyone interested in true crime, the Civil War and its aftermath, and the history of New Orleans and the American South.
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About the author

Michael A. Ross is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He is the author of the prize-winning Justice of Shattered Dreams: Samuel Freeman Miller and the Supreme Court during the Civil War Era.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Sep 22, 2014
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9780199394135
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / Social History
History / United States / 19th Century
History / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
Law / Discrimination
Law / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The book that helped free an innocent man who had spent twenty-seven years on death row.
 
In January 1982, an elderly white widow was found brutally murdered in the small town of Greenwood, South Carolina. Police immediately arrested Edward Lee Elmore, a semiliterate, mentally retarded black man with no previous felony record. His only connection to the victim was having cleaned her gutters and windows, but barely ninety days after the victim’s body was found, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.
 
Elmore had been on death row for eleven years when a young attorney named Diana Holt first learned of his case. After attending the University of Texas School of Law, Holt was eager to help the disenfranchised and voiceless; she herself had been a childhood victim of abuse. It required little scrutiny for Holt to discern that Elmore’s case—plagued by incompetent court-appointed defense attorneys, a virulent prosecution, and both misplaced and contaminated evidence—reeked of injustice. It was the cause of a lifetime for the spirited, hardworking lawyer. Holt would spend more than a decade fighting on Elmore’s behalf.
 
With the exemplary moral commitment and tenacious investigation that have distinguished his reporting career, Bonner follows Holt’s battle to save Elmore’s life and shows us how his case is a textbook example of what can go wrong in the American justice system. He reviews police work, evidence gathering, jury selection, work of court-appointed lawyers, latitude of judges, iniquities in the law, prison informants, and the appeals process. Throughout, the actions and motivations of both unlikely heroes and shameful villains in our justice system are vividly revealed.           
 
Moving, suspenseful, and enlightening, Anatomy of Injustice is a vital contribution to our nation’s ongoing, increasingly important debate about inequality and the death penalty.


From the Hardcover edition.
Nothing casts a more sinister shadow over our nation’s history than the gruesome lynchings that happened between 1882 and 1937, claiming 4,680 victims. Often, in a show of racist violence, the lynchers tortured their victims before murdering them. Most killers were never brought to justice; some were instead celebrated as heroes, their victims’ bodies displayed, or even cut up and distributed, as trophies.

Then, in 1946, the dead bodies of two men and two women were found near Moore’s Ford Bridge in rural Monroe, Georgia. Their killers were never identified. And although the crime reverberated through the troubled community, the corrupt courts, and eventually the whole world, many details remained unexplored ? until now.

In The Last Lynching, Anthony S. Pitch reveals the true story behind the last mass lynching in America in unprecedented detail. Drawing on some 10,000 previously classified documents from the FBI and National Archives, Lynched paints an unflinching picture of the lives of the victims, suspects, and eyewitnesses, and describes the political, judicial, and socioeconomic conditions that stood in the way of justice. Along the way, The Last Lynching sheds light into a dark corner of American history which no one can afford to ignore.

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