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A murder in Virginia : Southern justice on trial
Lebsock, Suzanne.
Adult Nonfiction HV6533.V8 L43 2003

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From Publishers' Weekly:

In recounting a 1895 murder investigation and trial in Lunenberg County, Va., Lebsock (The Free Women of Petersburg) meticulously brings to life a lost episode of a small, segregated Southern town and frames it against the backdrop of racial strife in the country as a whole. When the wife of a prominent Lunenberg man is murdered with an ax, a black farmhand, Solomon Marable, is immediately arrested. He shocks everyone by accusing three black women of the crime, and a dramatic set of trials ensues. Lebsock recounts the improbable roles of lawyers, judges, politicians, the black community and the defendants themselves in the case, thanking "the archivists, librarians, county clerks, the clerks' clerks, and packrats of all descriptions," who allowed her to recreate the investigations and five trials in astonishing detail. Mary Abernathy (tried twice), Mary Barnes and her daughter Pokey Barnes were eventually exonerated, to the relief of many. Marable paid for the crime with his life, but Lebsock, a professor of history at the University of Washington, is not sure he did it; she presents the case from both sides, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions. Throughout, Lebsock employs a clear, precise prose, and packs the book with the sort of detail that will satisfy procedural junkies. For history buffs, the book provides a fascinating, microcosmic glimpse into the politics and law of late Reconstruction, at a moment when the U.S. was poised on the brink of the 20th century. Moreover, Lebsock perfectly captures the manner in which the town mobilized to give the women (if not Marable) a fair trial, and the ways in which individual personalities influenced that process, lending this book a human interest beyond its time and place. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

On a warm afternoon in June 1895, a 56-year-old white woman was brutally murdered in Lunenburg County, VA. Despite the absence of any truly incriminating eye-witness testimony or physical evidence, four blacks-three women and one man-were arrested and tried for the murder. Lebsock (history, Univ. of Washington, Seattle), author of the Bancroft Prize-winning The Free Women of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784-1860), re-creates the subsequent trials, introducing the defendants, their prosecutors, and the witnesses and placing the proceedings within the context of the black and white communities and deteriorating conditions for African Americans in the post-Reconstruction South. Here historical narrative is every bit as intriguing as fictional mystery but more edifying for the information it gives its readers concerning race relations and criminal justice in the latter part of the 19th century. As readable and riveting as John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil; recommended for public and academic libraries of all sizes.-Theresa R. McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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