I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Once again Laurence Leamer has written a beautifully crafted image for his audience of the lives of those oppressed throughout history. He is known for other best-selling books, including The Price of Justice, which looked into a court case about two lawyers bringing down a big coal company. This legal battle showcased the greed and corruption of American businesses in the early 1990s until now. The lynching similarly showcases the corruption of officials and citizens in Alabama and the dangers of hatred. The message of this book leaves the reader with clear and crucial lesson to its audience about hate crimes in America. It offers a lot of insight of modern day racism and the justice system. In light of recent events surrounding the Black community, it was nice to hear how dedicated one man was to getting justice for a teen who died unjustly. Morris Dees, the lawyer prosecuting the UKA, vows to take down the most powerful hate group in American history.
The book follows two perspectives, that of the Morris Dees and the main influencers of the UKA or United Klans of America. The two parties go head to head in a gruesome, intense, and historical case that made its mark on the fight for equality in the south. Alabama was the first formerly Confederate state to have such a case bring such major press and legal consequences for those who committed hate crimes. Prior to the trial, the UKA had both political and social power against their communities. They helped elect Governor George Wallace into office after promises of segregation of the communities and kept others in the community quiet if they acted against them. They fought for schools and public places to remain separated. Once Jim Crow started to crumble, there were still organizations like this that tried to keep the division among the people. The first court case of the novel commences with the death of an Alabama teenager, Michael Donald. Two men stop him on the street, kidnap him, and then murder him in an attempt to revive the Black community’s fear of the Klan. Dees himself expresses his disgust for the men, explaining how “he kept thinking about how these Klan members had been led to equate the lynching of a black man to justice. Knowing there had always been this division never seemed so dangerously destructive before he took this case. He went on to describe the leader of the Klan as “evil”, which to Dees, was rare. No one he had ever seen had such an intense gaze that seemed to curse every soul who looked at him, or his son, in opposition and disgust. The vibes from these men truly describe the amount of hatred and ignorance that was deeply rooted in Southern culture for years. There was no justice for a Black man. Period. Originally a segregationist and friends of the members, Dees works against them to form a case that stops racism right in its tracks. Racism in America still existed in these times and there definitely needs to be a change. There cannot be change if we turn our heads from the issue. We must see it for all it is and acknowledge the pain people experience every day. Spreading hatred into the world will never solve anything. Families and communities are being destroyed because we cannot put aside our differences.
All in all, I believe Laurence Leamer has crafted a perfect example of what modern day racism looks like in America. We see what obstacles people of color have to go through to get justice, and how there are still individuals who spew hatred at other in an attempt to establish some sort of dominance. We as a nation have a long way to go before every man is created equal, however these trials take a massive step in the right direction. A young man receives justice for his death, and the men responsible see the side of the law they thought was on their side.
Reviewed by Lauryn H. ’17 for Literature of the Millennium