A Second Reckoning: Race, Injustice, and the Last Hanging in Annapolis

Potomac. Seligman, Scott D ed. Oct. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781640124653. $32.95. HIST
In this page-turner, historian Seligman (The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902) doggedly digs up seemingly every detail on the arrest, trial, conviction, and post-trial experiences of John Snowden, a Black man convicted of murdering a pregnant white woman in Annapolis, MD, in 1917. The murder and trial gained national attention due to sensationalistic reports from the press; fevered worries about racial unrest amid early mobilization for World War I; and the persistent efforts by Snowden's defense lawyers, Black journalists, clergymen, and civil rights activists, and various white supporters, to overturn the conviction and save Snowden from execution. Snowden's defenders argued that racism had corrupted his trial and the appeal process. Seligman introduces and gives rich detail on an interesting cast of detectives, lawyers, judges, government officials, clergy, and civil rights activists who became involved in the story. Seligman's principal purpose in relating this history is to make a case for posthumous pardons for Black Americans and others who, like Snowden, were unjustly convicted of crimes. He closes his book with an ardent plea to vigorously investigate and interrogate past judicial actions to right past wrongs and set a standard for justice today. 
VERDICT  Calling for ongoing systemic change, this short book packs a big punch and will resonate with many in the 21st century.
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