In the Pines: A Lynching, a Lie, a Reckoning

Little, Brown. Nov. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9780316564748. $29. HIST
In 1947, Versie Johnson, a Black man, was lynched in the town of Prentiss, MS. In this deeply personal tale, Hale (history, Univ. of Virginia; Cool Town) uncovers the truth about the role Sheriff Oury Berry, her grandfather, played in Johnson’s murder. Growing up, Hale had been told that her grandfather prevented a white mob from abducting a Black man accused of raping a pregnant white woman. The next day, Berry, his deputies, and a group of onlookers took Johnson to the alleged scene of the crime. Hale had been told that Johnson tried to escape, so the officers shot and killed him. Years later, Hale questioned the story and her grandfather’s role. She discovered that Berry, far from being a passive observer, likely participated in lynching Johnson. Effectively using period newspapers, census records, and oral histories, Hale expertly re-creates (to the extent possible) the lives of Johnson and Prentiss’s Black residents.
VERDICT This book about a lynching shows how whites maintained white supremacy as they resisted desegregation and the expansion of Black voting rights. Recommended for those interested in civil rights and Southern history.
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