Cover image for Unpunished murder : massacre at Colfax and the quest for justice
Title:
Unpunished murder : massacre at Colfax and the quest for justice
ISBN:
9781338239454
Edition:
1st ed.
Physical Description:
xxi, 262 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm.
Contents:
A new government : Alexander Hamilton and "Brutus" -- The Supreme Court is born : John Marshall -- Less than human : Roger Taney and Dred Scott -- Remaking America : Andrew Johnson and Thaddeus Stevens -- Some odd arithmetic : who won the war? -- Two amendments and a dream of equality : John Bingham -- The Klan : Nathan Bedford Forrest and Mary Polk Branch -- Reconstruction in black and white : Harriet Ann Jacobs and Frank Alexander Montgomery -- An island for Freedmen : Colfax -- Fraud runs wild : Samuel McEnery and William Kellogg -- Reconstruction ascendant : Blanche K. Bruce -- Massacre : James Hadnot -- The wheels of justice : J.R. Beckwith -- Civil rights on trial -- Is justice language or an idea? : Joseph P. Bradley -- The most important judge in the nation : Morrison Waite -- Civil rights : Charles Sumner -- One hundred years of freedom : Philadelphia and the White League -- The end of the line -- President by one vote : the Fifteenth Man.
Summary:
On Easter Sunday of 1873, just eight years after the Civil War ended, a band of white supremacists marched into Grant Parish, Louisiana, and massacred over one hundred unarmed African Americans. The court case that followed would reach the highest court in the land. Yet, following one of the most ghastly and barbaric incidents of mass murder in American history, not a single person was convicted. The opinion issued by the Supreme Court in US v. Cruikshank set in motion a process that would help create a society in which black Americans were oppressed and denied basic human rights -- legally, according to the courts. These injustices would last for the next hundred years, and many continue to exist to this day. In this compelling and thoroughly researched volume for young readers, Lawrence Goldstone traces the evolution of the law and the fascinating characters involved in the story of how the Supreme Court helped institutionalize racism in the American justice system. --
Holds:

Available:*

Library
Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Copies
Status
Searching...
Book 976.367 GOL 1 1
Searching...
Searching...
Book 976.367 GOL 1 1
Searching...
Searching...
Book 976.367 GOL 1 1
Searching...
Searching...
Book TEEN 976.367 GOL 1 1
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

The riveting story of how the Supreme Court turned a blind eye on justice, stripped away the equal rights promised to all Americans, and ushered in the era of Jim Crow.

On Easter Sunday of 1873, just eight years after the Civil War ended, a band of white supremacists marched into Grant Parish, Louisiana, and massacred over one hundred unarmed African Americans. The court case that followed reached the highest court in the land. Yet, following one of the most ghastly incidents of mass murder in American history, not one person was convicted.

The opinion issued by the Supreme Court in US v. Cruikshank set in motion a process that would help create a society in which black Americans were oppressed and denied basic human rights -- legally, according to the courts. These injustices paved the way for Jim Crow and would last for the next hundred years. Many continue to exist to this day.

In this compelling and thoroughly researched volume for young readers, Lawrence Goldstone traces the evolution of the law and the fascinating characters involved in the story of how the Supreme Court helped institutionalize racism in the American justice system.


Author Notes

Lawrence Goldstone has written more than a dozen books for adults, including three on Constitutional Law. Unpunished Murder is his first book on that subject for young readers. He lives in Sagaponack, New York, with his wife, medieval and renaissance historian, Nancy Goldstone.


Reviews 3

Horn Book Review

In 1873, a mob of armed white men massacred more than one hundred black freedmen in the town of Colfax in central Louisiana. Setting the stage for the horrific events, Goldstone traces several important ideas through the early history of the United States: the growth in influence of the Supreme Court after John Marshall introduced the concept of judicial review; the uneasy balance of power between state and federal governments; and the racism written into the Constitution as the Three-Fifths Compromise and subsequently espoused by Americas leading politicians and judges. During Reconstruction, emboldened white Southerners turned to the terrorism of white supremacy groups to undermine the work of the self-termed Radical Republicans in Congress (who intended to forcibly abolish racial inequality), the Colfax Massacre being a prime example. After a mistrial, three of the nine defendants were found guilty, but a circuit judge overturned their convictions, and the Supreme Court upheld that decision, essentially vitiating the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. The book is, in large part, the story of how racism evolves, persisting in laws and politics despite major social advances. The anemic response of the American justice system in this particular episode, especially given the scale of the tragedy and the weight of the evidence, directly presages the end of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow. Extensive back matter includes a glossary, a bibliography, source notes, and an index. jonathan hunt (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus Review

An account of a little-known Reconstruction-era massacre, how it came about, and its influence on U.S. history.The prologue tells the story of the Colfax massacre itself, when over 100 black men were murdered by white supremacists in Louisiana in 1873. The book then backtracks to the early days of the U.S., chronicling individuals and events that would later affect the situation in Colfax: the formation of the Supreme Court, the Dred Scott decision, the racist attitudes of presidents Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson, the passionate abolitionist Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens, the Ku Klux Klan, and more. While some moments of historical import help put the Colfax massacre in context, others are overly detailed, and readers may wonder if they are necessary at all. Colfax comes up again nearly halfway through the text, with lawyer J.R. Beckwith's fight for justice for the slaughtered. His efforts were actively thwarted by the U.S. government, leading to the creation of the Jim Crow South. Despite being overly long, this book shines a light on a shameful sea change moment in U.S. history, although the message of injustice is weakened by the positive presentation of the Homestead Act which forcibly removed Native Americans from their land. Though the book ends abruptly, readers will come away with a thorough understanding of the Colfax massacre and its place in America's past and present.Difficult and necessary. (glossary, bibliography, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* This information-packed book discusses the origins and repercussions of the Colfax massacre. In central Louisiana in 1873, white supremacists surrounded a courthouse where more than 100 formerly enslaved men had taken refuge. The attackers set the building ablaze and, after the freedmen came out and surrendered their weapons, shot them. No one was convicted of those murders. A Supreme Court decision related to the massacre resulted in the dismantling of Reconstruction and the swift return of widespread discrimination and violence against black Americans, particularly in the South. Offering a broad view of the issues, Goldstone presents a great deal of relevant background material on constitutional history, the federal court system, and the Dred Scott decision as well as describing significant individuals and political factions during the Reconstruction period. The illustrations include period portraits, photos, and political cartoons. Though the many details regarding government officials, judicial rulings, and widespread corruption during the period can be fascinating, students without a solid foundation in American history may lose interest. Those who persevere will find a gripping story and a well-informed perspective on American history. Spotlighting an event seldom discussed in books for young people, Goldstone provides a complex, useful historical context for understanding issues surrounding race and justice.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2010 Booklist


Excerpts

Excerpts

The Redeemers had been determined to kill every black man they could find, but some survived, many of them with terrible wounds. And thus Levi Nelson lived to bear witness to what would be known in the North as the Colfax Massacre. But not in the South. There, and in some Democratic newspapers in the North, such as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the incident was referred to as the Colfax Riot. The Daily Eagle, which boasted "the largest circulation of any evening newspaper published in the United States," blamed the incident entirely on the freedmen, claiming, without any proof or eyewitness testimony, that James Hadnot had been shot down in cold blood after offering a flag of truce, and that the white invaders had merely taken possession of government buildings that were rightfully theirs, all with a minimum of force. A memorial headstone was later erected in Louisiana in honor of the three Redeemers "who fell in the Colfax Riot fighting for white supremacy." The tragedy of Colfax did not end with the massacre, however, but in the most hallowed courtroom in the land, a place where the Founding Fathers, in particular Alexander Hamilton, had promised that the rights of oppressed citizens would be protected. The story of Colfax, then, is the story of America, and it begins where America began, in the State House in Philadelphia, now known as Independence Hall. From there, a new Constitution was issued, signed on September 17, 1787, which spawned a series of great battles that determined not only the laws of the new nation, but also its soul. Those battles continue today. Excerpted from Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice by Lawrence Goldstone All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.