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"Devil in the Grove" with Gilbert King


March 13, 2012

In this illustrated talk, the author (a former NYPL Wertheim Scholar) discusses his new book, Devil in the Grove, the definitive biography of Thurgood Marshall before he argued Brown v. Board of Education that is intertwined with a discussion of a now forgotten capital rape case that Marshall argued in the deep south that almost cost him his life.

In 1949, Florida's orange industry was booming, and the citrus barons got rich on the back of cheap Jim Crow labor. To maintain order and profits, they turned to Sheriff Willis McCall, a violent sheriff who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a white 17 year old girl cried rape, McCall was fast on the trail of four young blacks who dared to envision a future for themselves beyond the Citrus groves. Associates thought it would be suicidal for Marshall to wade into the fray as the Klan had already murdered one of his NAACP associates and threatened that Marshall would be next in a case that threatened to change the course of the civil rights movement.