4 out of 4 stars
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On the evening of August 6, 1930, a young couple went for a drive around the streets of Marion, Indiana. While parked at the Lover’s Lane, three African-American teenagers stealthily approached their car. Armed with a revolver, they took what little cash the couple had, shot the white man, and raped his female companion. This incident elicited a virulent reaction among the local people. The following night, a vengeful mob of white men and women stormed the Grant County Jail in which the perpetrators were held and took it upon themselves to exact justice.
Rape, Revolvers, and Ropes by James Ferrell is a historical account of the brutal lynching of two black teenagers in 1930 after their involvement in the murder and rape of two white individuals. Motivated by curiosity and will to uncover the truth, the author spent seventeen years studying and compiling newspaper articles, old photographs, and court records to make accurate documentation of these events.
I liked that the author didn’t shy away from the details. There are vivid descriptions of violence, obsolete derogatory terms, and sensitive photographs that evoke feelings of pain, rage, and horror. Another favorable aspect of this book is the arrangement. In the prologue, the author prepares the reader on what to expect and how they may react in response to the sensitive contents. He also reassures that unfiltered contents are necessary to present the past as it was, raw and honest. I loved the tone of the author in this prologue. There are also a few pages narrating his experience while researching and acquiring resources that interestingly felt like I was following a protagonist in a movie. Each chapter has a proper title, and there are photographs of the places from which the events took place to better aid one’s imagination. Moreover, the book has a reference section, which is a great thing in case anyone might need further clarification or research.
The author also did an amazing job of examining race relations in this small town in the 1930s. Symbols of racism in newspaper ads and direct quotes from people in this era will give you a sense of how blatant and prevalent racism is at the time. The sheer reality of it all is appalling.
The subject matter is a very controversial one. Without carefully reading the material, one may see things in black and white and miss the gray areas in the narrative. Only upon thorough reading and much contemplation did I find these gray areas. With that, I appreciated the author’s impartiality by presenting conflicting testimonies, challenging readers to develop their own opinions.
Since there is nothing I dislike about this book, my rating would be 4 out of 4 stars. I did not award it a lower rating because it is well-executed and well-researched. It also appeared to be professionally edited because I found no errors in it. The author writes in a clear, engaging tone. In the height of all the tension, I was so engrossed it almost felt like I was reading a novel rather than a non-fiction book.
All in all, this has been a compelling, thought-provoking read. I recommend this to anyone interested in history, as this would make a good reference material. Readers sensitive to graphic violence should proceed with caution. There is a photograph of two young men hanging from a tree that isn’t for the faint of heart. Naturally, I would not advise kids to read this book.
Rape, Revolvers & Ropes
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