Due to the suspicion of Communist intentions at the time, the widely accepted defamation of Hawkins’s character and the...




A thorough revisiting of the 1945 Mississippi black-white rape case that ended in the electric chair.

Determining that there were too many holes in the case against Willie McGee—despite three trials, appeals and public outcry—Outside editorial director Heard (Apocalypse Pretty Soon: Travels in End-Time America, 1999), born in Jackson, Miss., decided to start his investigation from scratch, along the way consulting primary sources, trial transcripts, FBI documents and archived papers. McGee, a black grocery-delivery driver in Laurel, was accused of raping a white married woman and mother of three, Willette Hawkins, after breaking into her home at dawn on Nov. 2, 1945. By Mississippi law, the death penalty could be applied for rape, though only African-Americans had suffered that punishment. Heard wades through reams of obfuscation around the case—much of it concocted by desperate supporters associated with the Civil Rights Congress and McGee’s lawyers, including the young Bella Abzug—alleging that McGee and Hawkins were actually having an illicit affair, that Hawkins might have been pregnant by McGee and that blackmail was involved. To reach a sense of the facts, the author tracked down several of the children of both McGee and Hawkins and exposed some convincing angles, such as that Hawkins was traumatized by the rape, and that McGee’s real wife had been abandoned, while the woman presented to the public as his wife was someone he had only met in jail and corresponded with. Heard does a fine job presenting horrific documentation of the practice of lynching in the South—McGee initially confessed out of terror for his life—and of the general culture of racism perpetrated by Sen. Theodore G. Bilbo and others.

Due to the suspicion of Communist intentions at the time, the widely accepted defamation of Hawkins’s character and the outrageous injustice against blacks systematically practiced in the South, there is no way to discover “what really happened.” However, the author undertakes painstaking detective work to engagingly explore an era of deep-seated racial hatred.

Pub Date: May 11, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-128415-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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