Friday, January 30, 2015

New Release: Romano, "Racial Reckoning Prosecuting America's Civil Rights Murders"

New from Harvard University Press: Racial Reckoning: Prosecuting America's Civil Rights Murders (Oct. 2014), by Renee C. Romano (Oberlin College). The Press explains:
Few whites who violently resisted the civil rights struggle were charged with crimes in the 1950s and 1960s. But the tide of a long-deferred justice began to change in 1994, when a Mississippi jury convicted Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers. Since then, more than one hundred murder cases have been reopened, resulting in more than a dozen trials. But how much did these public trials contribute to a public reckoning with America’s racist past? Racial Reckoning investigates that question, along with the political pressures and cultural forces that compelled the legal system to revisit these decades-old crimes.
Renee C. Romano brings readers into the courthouse for the trials of the civil rights era’s most infamous killings, including the Birmingham church bombing and the triple murder of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Mickey Schwerner. The activists who succeeded in reopening these cases hoped that bringing those responsible to justice would serve to highlight the state-sanctioned racism that had condoned the killings and the lingering effects of racial violence. Courtroom procedures, however, worked against a deeper exploration of the state’s complicity in murder or a full accounting of racial injustices, past or present. Yet the media and a new generation of white southerners—a different breed from the dying Klansmen on trial—saw the convictions as proof of the politically rehabilitated South and stamped “case closed” on America’s legacy of violent racism. Romano shows why addressing the nation’s troubled racial past will require more than legal justice.
A few blurbs:
[An] insightful new book on the cold cases of the civil rights era.—Kevin Boyle

Over the last two decades, the violent death throes of Jim Crow have been replayed in courtrooms across the South, as prosecutors have reopened some of the most notorious murders of the civil rights era. In this wise, probing, gently skeptical book, Romano considers why these prosecutions are happening now, the truths they reveal and conceal, and what they tell us about America’s continuing racial odyssey.—James T. Campbell
More information, including an interview with the author, is available here.