cover image In the Pines: A Lynching, a Lie, a Reckoning

In the Pines: A Lynching, a Lie, a Reckoning

Grace Elizabeth Hale. Little, Brown, $29 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-56474-8

“This is the story of a lynching and a lie,” writes historian Hale (Cool Town) in her riveting investigation of a family legend. During summers spent with her grandparents in Prentiss, Miss., Hale grew up on heroic tales of her grandfather, the town sheriff, including the time he prevented the lynching of a Black man in 1947. Years later this story inspired Hale to research lynchings, including the incident in Prentiss. It was then that she discovered the horrifying truth: instead of saving Versie Johnson, a young Black man, her grandfather murdered him. Accused of raping a white woman, Johnson was held in the local jail and threatened by an angry white mob. The official story would later report that the sheriff and two highway patrolmen then took Johnson to the site of the crime, where he was shot when he “attempted to escape.” Hale’s years of research reveal that Johnson was actually executed. She explains that this type of “underground lynching,” which “local officials arranged, participated in, or helped cover up,” had become commonplace after President Truman’s 1946 Civil Rights Commission cracked down on public lynchings. Hale’s narrative is both deeply personal and steeped in the history of the rural Deep South. It’s a harrowing look at white supremacist violence and the lies that allowed it to flourish. (Nov.)