Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America

Kali Nicole Gross. Oxford Univ., $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-19-024121-6
Gross (Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love) examines the intersections of race and gender in 19th-century Philadelphia in this dynamic and powerfully rendered account of the 1887 trial of Hannah Mary Tabbs. Tabbs, a black woman known by various aliases who was in an adulterous relationship, was accused of murdering her lover, chopping him up, and bundling the pieces into a package. Gross builds suspense through descriptions of gruesome crime scene and details of witness testimonies, all the while filling the reader in on the intricate racial politics surrounding the case. The dismembered and racially ambiguous torso of the African-American victim and the light-skinned complexion of a second suspect galvanized the police and generated much of the initial news coverage, during an era when many black murder victims were forgotten. Gross's in-depth accounts of the police brutality, forced confessions, and science-based forensics involved in the case feel surprisingly modern. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/18/2016
Release date: 01/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 232 pages - 978-0-19-086001-1
Digital Format - 978-0-19-049440-7
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