|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Length: 386 pages
Genre: Non-fiction—Legal/Civil Rights
Start Date: Sometime in 2003
Finished Date: Sometime in 2003
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: High school history project
Summary: A historical account of the 1963 assassination of Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers and the 30 years it took to convict Byron De La Beckwish in the heat of KKK influence in the U.S. South.
This was the first book I remember reading on my own in order to complete a school project without being told I had to read it. It was the best resource I found in the library and was genuinely interested in reading it, so I snatched up my own copy (no, I didn’t pinch it from the library!).
Medgar Evers was active in Mississippi’s NAACP and advocated for African-American voter registration despite a number of death threats and a previous attempt on his life. Byron De La Beckwith was raised to hate all races but his own, had local KKK connections, and was untreated for schizophrenic paranoia. Despite obvious motives, a lacking consistency in his alibi, a clean fingerprint on the murder rifle, and a tendency to run his mouth about the murder, two 1960s trials of all white, all male juries ended in mistrial or deadlock and the D.A. put the case to rest as media attention ebbed, any further evidence dried up, and racial biases stacked up.
In 1989, upon learning of an investigation into illegal background checks on jury members during the two trials, Assistant D.A. Bobby DeLaughter and his team of former cops and PIs, spent 2 ½ years rebuilding the case against the elderly Beckwith, still actively promoting the Aryan cause with outspoken conspiracy theories and explicit admittance of the murder. Beginning with a skimpy police report and the will to persevere despite a number of dead or unwilling witnesses, the third trial in 1994 with a mixed race/gender jury brought a 30-year case to justice.
The story is told through a scope of justice yet is unbiased in the sense that Vollers traces the hateful influences of Beckwith’s life and the hateful climate of the 1960s South. She writes a highly detailed, factual account with thorough background checks on all personalities in the case and how a combination of unearthed evidence and the limitless, tireless efforts of DeLaughter’s team saw a reversal of racially charged injustice in the most Confederate-minded state in U.S. history.
The 1996 movie was underrated, often considered overly emotional. The problem with that is you can't help but make it emotional--it was an agonizing 30-year wait for justice to be had against a hateful assasssin that not only had evidence stacked against him, but spent years bragging about how he got away with it. The movie was very true to the book, only omitting some background information Vollers gives of Evers' and Beckwith's childhoods, but hits the all the right notes.
Rank: (A)- Highly recommend