Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice
Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice
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Annotation: The riveting story of how the Supreme Court turned a blind eye on justice, stripped away the equal rights promised to all Americans, and ushered in the era of Jim Crow.
Catalog Number: #209802
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Pages: xxi, 265 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-338-23946-5 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-7579-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-338-23946-1 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-7579-3
Dewey: 976.3
LCCN: 2017055119
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
In 1873, a mob of armed white men massacred more than one hundred black "freedmen" in the town of Colfax in central Louisiana. Goldstone sets the stage for this horrific, unpunished event by tracing important ideas through the early history of the United States. The book is, in large part, the story of how racism evolves, persisting in laws and politics despite major social advances. Bib., glos., ind.
Kirkus Reviews
An account of a little-known Reconstruction-era massacre, how it came about, and its influence on U.S. history.The prologue tells the story of the Colfax massacre itself, when over 100 black men were murdered by white supremacists in Louisiana in 1873. The book then backtracks to the early days of the U.S., chronicling individuals and events that would later affect the situation in Colfax: the formation of the Supreme Court, the Dred Scott decision, the racist attitudes of presidents Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson, the passionate abolitionist Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens, the Ku Klux Klan, and more. While some moments of historical import help put the Colfax massacre in context, others are overly detailed, and readers may wonder if they are necessary at all. Colfax comes up again nearly halfway through the text, with lawyer J.R. Beckwith's fight for justice for the slaughtered. His efforts were actively thwarted by the U.S. government, leading to the creation of the Jim Crow South. Despite being overly long, this book shines a light on a shameful sea change moment in U.S. history, although the message of injustice is weakened by the positive presentation of the Homestead Act which forcibly removed Native Americans from their land. Though the book ends abruptly, readers will come away with a thorough understanding of the Colfax massacre and its place in America's past and present.Difficult and necessary. (glossary, bibliography, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* This information-packed book discusses the origins and repercussions of the Colfax massacre. In central Louisiana in 1873, white supremacists surrounded a courthouse where more than 100 formerly enslaved men had taken refuge. The attackers set the building ablaze and, after the freedmen came out and surrendered their weapons, shot them. No one was convicted of those murders. A Supreme Court decision related to the massacre resulted in the dismantling of Reconstruction and the swift return of widespread discrimination and violence against black Americans, particularly in the South. Offering a broad view of the issues, Goldstone presents a great deal of relevant background material on constitutional history, the federal court system, and the Dred Scott decision as well as describing significant individuals and political factions during the Reconstruction period. The illustrations include period portraits, photos, and political cartoons. Though the many details regarding government officials, judicial rulings, and widespread corruption during the period can be fascinating, students without a solid foundation in American history may lose interest. Those who persevere will find a gripping story and a well-informed perspective on American history. Spotlighting an event seldom discussed in books for young people, Goldstone provides a complex, useful historical context for understanding issues surrounding race and justice.
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Word Count: 44,570
Reading Level: 9.1
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 9.1 / points: 9.0 / quiz: 199228 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:12.9 / points:12.0 / quiz:Q75156
Lexile: 1260L
Guided Reading Level: V
The Redeemers had been determined to kill every black man they could find, but some survived, many of them with terrible wounds.

And thus Levi Nelson lived to bear witness to what would be known in the North as the Colfax Massacre.

But not in the South. There, and in some Democratic newspapers in the North, such as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the incident was referred to as the Colfax Riot. The Daily Eagle, which boasted "the largest circulation of any evening newspaper published in the United States," blamed the incident entirely on the freedmen, claiming, without any proof or eyewitness testimony, that James Hadnot had been shot down in cold blood after offering a flag of truce, and that the white invaders had merely taken possession of government buildings that were rightfully theirs, all with a minimum of force. A memorial headstone was later erected in Louisiana in honor of the three Redeemers "who fell in the Colfax Riot fighting for white supremacy."

The tragedy of Colfax did not end with the massacre, however, but in the most hallowed courtroom in the land, a place where the Founding Fathers, in particular Alexander Hamilton, had promised that the rights of oppressed citizens would be protected.

The story of Colfax, then, is the story of America, and it begins where America began, in the State House in Philadelphia, now known as Independence Hall. From there, a new Constitution was issued, signed on September 17, 1787, which spawned a series of great battles that determined not only the laws of the new nation, but also its soul. Those battles continue today.

Excerpted from Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice by Lawrence Goldstone
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

The riveting story of how the Supreme Court turned a blind eye on justice, stripped away the equal rights promised to all Americans, and ushered in the era of Jim Crow.

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 100 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.

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