The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction

Southern blacks viewed the three post-Civil War constitutional amendments as guaranteeing them equal protection under the law. Yet postwar dreams of equality would be dashed during Reconstruction. Much of that failure traces back to the Colfax Massacre. During Reconstruction, white supremacist groups such as the KKK used violence to prevent southern blacks from exercising their legal rights, and elections were deeply influenced by the de facto disenfranchisement of terrified blacks. After one disputed election, a group of black Republicans peacefully occupied the courthouse in Colfax, Louisiana. A white vigilante mob gathered, and on April 13, 1873, they attacked the courthouse, setting it and gunning down those who fled. Blacks who surrendered were executed, with the death toll reaching 60. The outraged U.S. attorney, James Beckwith, sought to convict the killers, but got no cooperation from Colfax?s white community, and little help from blacks, who feared further reprisals. Charles Lane expertly describes the legal proceedings against nine whites, charged by Beckwith with federal crimes. In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Colfax killers were subject only to state law: "the Supreme Court had decreed," summarizes Lane, "that the Negroes must look to the states for protection." Predictably, the white defendants were freed by state authorities, and southern states began to restrict rather than protect civil rights. The federal government would not interfere with Jim Crow for nearly a century.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."