“hellbent on lynching . . .”

Gilbert King’s novel, Devil in the Grove, is about one of the most important civil rights cases argued by Thurgood Marshall.

From the book:

In the landmark case Smith v. Allwright, Thurgood Marshall had argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1944 that it was unconstitutional for the state of Texas to ban blacks from voting in the Democratic Party’s primary. The Supreme Court agreed and overturned the party’s practice of all-white primaries, a ruling, Marshall noted, that was “a giant milestone in the progress of Negro Americans toward full citizenship.” He later assessed the Smith v. Allwright victory to be “the greatest one” of his career.

. . . The last week of August 1949 brought newspaper reporters from all over the country to cover the trial of the Groveland Boys, a case that the press was calling “Little Scottsboro.” Certainly it was strikingly similar in many ways to the infamous 1931 case, in which young white women’s accusations of rape by young black men triggered coerced confessions, lynching attempts, and mob violence involving powerful sheriffs, unruly posses, and the Ku Klux Klan in Scottsboro, Alabama. In central Florida, the black papers had been covering the Groveland story since the rioting in mid-July, largely on the basis of information passed on to them by Franklin Williams in the course of his investigation. In late August local reporters were joined in Tavares by correspondents from the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender as well as a few “northern” writers who had taken an interest in the story. So had the Christian Science Monitor, but surprisingly, to Williams, the Associated Press and the United Press International had not. Yet while Marshall and the NAACP in New York were trying to focus national attention on the racial tension and racist violence in Groveland, Florida, the big race story that August was unfolding in their own backyard.

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