From the end of Reconstruction to the onset of the civil rights era, lynching was prevalent in developing and frontier regions that had a dynamic and fluid African American population. Focusing on Mississippi and South Carolina because of the high proportion of African Americans in each state during "the age of lynching," Terence Finnegan explains lynching as a consequence of the revolution in social relations—assertiveness, competition, and tension—that resulted from emancipation. A comprehensive study of lynching in Mississippi and South Carolina, A Deed So Accursed reveals the economic and social circumstances that spawned lynching and explores the interplay between extralegal violence and political and civil rights.
Finnegan's research shows that lynching rates depended on factors other than caste conflict and the interaction of race and southern notions of honor. Although lynching supported the ends of white supremacy, many mobs lynched more for private retaliation than for communal motives, which explains why mobs varied greatly in size, organization, behavior, and purpose.
The resistance of African Americans was vigorous and sustained and took on a variety of forms, but depending on the circumstances, black resistance could sometimes provoke rather than deter lynching. Ultimately, Finnegan shows how out of the tragedy of lynching came the triumph of the civil rights movement, which was built upon the organizational efforts of African American anti-lynching campaigns.
Wilkie's personal take on some of the landmark events of modern American history is as engaging as it is insightful. He attended Ole Miss during the rioting in the fall of 1962, when James Meredith became the first African American to enroll in the school. After graduation, Wilkie worked in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he met Aaron Henry, a local druggist and later the prominent head of the Mississippi NAACP. He covered the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964 and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenge at the national convention in Atlantic City, and he was a member of the biracial insurgent Democratic delegation from Mississippi seated in place of Governor John Bell Williams's delegation at the 1968 convention in Chicago. Wilkie followed Jimmy Carter's campaign for the presidency, becoming friends with Billy Carter; he covered Bill Clinton's election in 1992 and was witness to the South's startling shift from the Democratic Party to the GOP; and finally, he was there when Byron De La Beckwith was convicted for the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers thirty-one years after the fact.
Wilkie had left the South in 1969 in the wake of the violence surrounding the civil rights movement, vowing never to live there again. But after traveling the world as a reporter, he did return in 1993, drawn by a deep-rooted affinity to the region of his youth. It was as though he rejoined his tribe, a peculiar civilization bonded by accent and mannerisms and burdened by racial anxiety. As Wilkie writes, Southerners have staunchly resisted assimilation since the Civil War, taking an almost perverse pride in their role as "spiritual citizens of a nation that existed for only four years in another century."
Wilkie endeavors to make sense of the enormous changes that have typified the South for more than four decades. Full of beauty, humor, and pathos, Dixie is a story of redemption -- for both a region and a writer.
Decades after the U.S. Supreme Court and certain governmental actions struck down racial segregation in the larger society, American prison administrators still boldly adhered to discriminatory practices. Not until 1975 did legislation prohibit racial segregation and discrimination in Texas prisons. However, vestiges of this practice endured behind prison walls. Charting the transformation from segregation to desegregation in Texas prisons—which resulted in Texas prisons becoming one of the most desegregated places in America—First Available Cell chronicles the pivotal steps in the process, including prison director George J. Beto's 1965 decision to allow inmates of different races to co-exist in the same prison setting, defying Southern norms.
The authors also clarify the significant impetus for change that emerged in 1972, when a Texas inmate filed a lawsuit alleging racial segregation and discrimination in the Texas Department of Corrections. Perhaps surprisingly, a multiracial group of prisoners sided with the TDC, fearing that desegregated housing would unleash racial violence. Members of the security staff also feared and predicted severe racial violence. Nearly two decades after the 1972 lawsuit, one vestige of segregation remained in place: the double cell. Revealing the aftermath of racial desegregation within that 9 x 5 foot space, First Available Cell tells the story of one of the greatest social experiments with racial desegregation in American history.
Throughout these interviews, Davis returns to her critique of a democracy that has been compromised by its racist origins and institutions. Discussing the most recent disclosures about the disavowed "chain of command," and the formal reports by the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch denouncing U.S. violation of human rights and the laws of war in Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq, Davis focuses on the underpinnings of prison regimes in the United States.