A Mob Intent on Death

Richard C. Cortner, Author Wesleyan University Press $35 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8195-5161-0
In 1919, racial clashes in eastern Arkansas took the lives of five whites and some 200 blacks. In ensuing, mob-dominated court action, 67 blacks were sentenced to prison and 12 others to death. In this lucid, informed study, Cortner details how the fledgling NAACP spent the next five years battling in behalf of the convicted blacks in state and federal courts, ultimately winning their freedom after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1923 decision, Moore v. Dempsey, which recognized that the defendants had not had fair state trials under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In addition to exploring the case's legal importance, Cortner describes the many tensions in the episode, not only between Arkansas white planters (who claimed blacks were planning an insurrection) and black tenant farmers (organizing to get fair crop prices), but between Northern NAACP officials and local black leaders. Cortner teaches at the Univ. of Arizona. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1988
Release date: 04/01/1988
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