By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners

Highbridge Audio. Sept. 2022. 10:59 hrs. ISBN 9781696609517. $24.99. HIST
Burnham’s (law, Northeastern Univ.; director, Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project) debut transports listeners to the hate-filled and ugly world of the Jim Crow South. Burnham presents listeners with historical details based on legal records, firsthand accounts, and family lore of systemic, widely condoned, and egregious acts of violence. Burnham addresses the period when enslaved people were considered property, to be bought and sold, and continues through various Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction practices that deprived the formerly enslaved population of fundamental constitutional rights. Case by case, she presents listeners with horrific acts of injustice—many of which were condoned by organizations that should have protected the vulnerable—utterly overlooked by the judicial system. Narrator Diana Blue’s composed but impassioned voice recounts atrocity after atrocity as though pleading a case to a jury. Her clear and even delivery assists listeners’ understanding of each citizen’s betrayal, although some listeners may be distracted by scattered mispronunciations throughout. Burnham leaves the case for reparations for the end of the book, providing listeners with food for thought.
VERDICT An essential listen that should be a part of every collection. Burnham’s message that a true reckoning with the past can only happen with the help of informed, justice-minded citizens resonates.
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