Monday, September 3, 2018

ARC Review: Unpunished Murder by Lawrence Goldstone

Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice
Author: Lawrence Goldstone
Series: Scholastic Focus
Publication: Scholastic Nonfiction (August 28, 2018)

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: This fascinating story talks about the formation of the United States government via the Constitution and focuses especially on the formation and role of the Supreme Court. It also talks about racism and the role of the Supreme Court in encouraging it.

The focus of the story centers on events in Grant County, Louisiana, in 1873. More than 150 well-armed white men massacred over 100 poorly armed black men - many of whom were trying to surrender. Due to a wide variety of conditions from the woes of Reconstruction to competing political factions, none of the white men were ever convicted of the murders. In fact, a monument was erected at the site celebrating the three white men who died as heroes.

The story talks about the men who fought for civil rights for the newly freed slaves and the men who were opposed - for a variety of reasons - to granting equal rights to those former slaves. A lot of the reasons on both sides had its roots in the Constitution and questions about what rights belonged to the Federal government and which rights were reserved to the states.

The book talks about the fights to ratify the fourteen and fifteenth amendments and the work of the Supreme Court to essentially gut them. Those Supreme Court actions led to the Jim Crow laws that were major stumbling blocks to equal rights for Blacks and are still lingering today.

The book ends with a plaque put up by the state of Louisiana in put up in 1950 which commemorates the "Colfax Riot" which "marked the end of carpetbag misrule in the South." I want to know what happened next. How did we go from that sorry situation to where we are now? What was the role of the Supreme Court in the changes?

The book ends with an extensive bibliography and detailed source notes. It will contain an index not included in the ARC I read. 

Favorite Quote:
The election, held on November 4, 1872, was one of the strangest in United States history. Even today, Louisiana historians describe it as "unique" or "weird." In a nation where voter fraud was hardly unknown, this election set a new standard. It is not possible, even now, to determine which candidate garnered more votes. Ballot boxes were stuffed or thrown in a nearby river; people voted more than once, often in different locations; many votes were cast by men already dead; votes were counted more than once of not at all--almost every means of perpetrating fraud at the ballot box was indulged in with gusto by both sides. In Grant Parish, the process was so obviously corrupt that an official vote count was never submitted at all. There, as in the rest of the state, both sides claimed victory.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Scholastic. You can buy your copy here.

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