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Racial Reckoning

Racial Reckoning

Prosecuting America’s Civil Rights Murders

Renee C. Romano

ISBN 9780674976030

Publication date: 05/08/2017

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Few whites who violently resisted the civil rights struggle were charged with crimes in the 1950s and 1960s. But the tide of a long-deferred justice began to change in 1994, when a Mississippi jury convicted Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers. Since then, more than one hundred murder cases have been reopened, resulting in more than a dozen trials. But how much did these public trials contribute to a public reckoning with America’s racist past? Racial Reckoning investigates that question, along with the political pressures and cultural forces that compelled the legal system to revisit these decades-old crimes.

“[A] timely and significant work…Romano brilliantly demystifies the false binary of villainous white men like Beckwith or Edgar Ray Killen who represent vestiges of a violent racial past with a more enlightened color-blind society…Considering the current partisan and racial divide over the prosecution of police shootings of unarmed black men, this book is a must-read for historians, legal analysts, and journalists interested in understanding the larger meanings of civil rights or racially explosive trials in America.”
—Chanelle Rose, American Historical Review


  • Renee C. Romano is Professor of History, Comparative American Studies, and Africana Studies at Oberlin College.

Book Details

  • 280 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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