• Murder on Shades Mountain: The Legal Lynching of Willie Peterson and the Struggle for Justice in Jim Crow Birmingham

    Author(s):
    Pages: 288
    Illustrations: 20 illustrations
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
  • Cloth: $26.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-7117-5
  • Quantity
  • Add To Bag
  • Introduction  1
    Part I. Danger in the Magic City
    1. August 4, 1931  15
    2. A City Beset by Fear  25
    3. Reign of Terror in the Black Community  34
    4. Fear, Loathing,and Oblivion in the White Community  45
    Part II. Trials and Tribulations
    5. The Arrest: September 23, 1931  55
    6. Attempted Murder  67
    7. Grand Jury Testimonies  76
    8. The NAACP Comes to Life  85
    9. Mounting the Defense  94
    10. House of Pain  113
    11. "A Temporarily Dethroned Mind"  116
    12. "An Outrageous Spectacle of Injustice"  119
    13. A Tumultuous Year  122
    Part IV. Never Turning Back
    14. Staying on the Firing Line  131
    15. Charles Hamilton Houston  134
    16. A Lynching in Tuscaloosa  142
    17. Moving the Case Forward  150
    18. No Negroes Allowed  162
    19. A Flood of Letters  168
    20. A Multitude of Regrets  172
    21. Grave Doubts as to His Guilt  178
    22. Jim Crow Justice  185
    Epilogue. The Community That Kept Faith  193
    Afterword. Letter to My Father  197
    Acknowledgments  203
    Notes  209
    Bibliography  233
    Index  241
  • "A straightforward, thoroughly researched nonfiction account of yet another disgraceful episode in Alabama racial history."
     

    "An important and timely book.”

    “A detailed, meticulously researched, riveting account.”

    “A compelling read. . . . Murder on Shades Mountain is a reminder that ‘the civil rights movement was not born in the 1960s’ and that its work is far from complete.”

    "In this passionate account of Jim Crow–era injustice, educator and activist Morrison exposes how courtrooms 'could function like lynch mobs when the defendant was black.'... Morrison, who is white, shares this painful story with clarity and compassion, emphasizing how much has changed since the 1930s, how much white people need to 'critically interrogate' the past, and how much 'remains to be done' in the fight for justice."

    "The author deserves praise for identifying Peterson’s trial as an important precursor to the 1960s civil rights movement. Audiences will be enthralled and angered by this all-too-familiar account of a criminal justice system that was and remains biased against black Americans."

    "Morrison digs deeply into period newspapers and archives to uncover this story of injustice long overshadowed by the more famous Scottsboro Boys trial. A thoughtful look into a tale of prejudice and stolen justice that will find many readers who are interested in African American history, the early civil rights movement, and Southern history."

    "Morrison’s book is an ultimate tribute to a man who is seldom mentioned in the Civil Rights Movement, but was a true civil rights hero and who despite torture and mental cruelty always proclaimed his innocence."

    Murder on Shades Mountain is an outstanding case study that should find an audience among laypersons and among students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

    "The book ends, as it begins, with a call to each of us to do our own work. In the afterword, poignantly written in the form of a letter to her late father, Morrison states the brutal truth: 'The demonization and criminalization of black men remains a national disgrace.' Eighty-seven years after Willie Peterson was targeted on a Birmingham street corner, there is still much work to be done. This book offers inspiration to keep at it."

    "iI shifting attention from Scottsboro's sleepy courthouse square to Birmingham's industrialized and highly stratified terrain, Morrison offers fresh perspective on the structural violence that undergirded white supremacy."

    Reviews

  • "A straightforward, thoroughly researched nonfiction account of yet another disgraceful episode in Alabama racial history."
     

    "An important and timely book.”

    “A detailed, meticulously researched, riveting account.”

    “A compelling read. . . . Murder on Shades Mountain is a reminder that ‘the civil rights movement was not born in the 1960s’ and that its work is far from complete.”

    "In this passionate account of Jim Crow–era injustice, educator and activist Morrison exposes how courtrooms 'could function like lynch mobs when the defendant was black.'... Morrison, who is white, shares this painful story with clarity and compassion, emphasizing how much has changed since the 1930s, how much white people need to 'critically interrogate' the past, and how much 'remains to be done' in the fight for justice."

    "The author deserves praise for identifying Peterson’s trial as an important precursor to the 1960s civil rights movement. Audiences will be enthralled and angered by this all-too-familiar account of a criminal justice system that was and remains biased against black Americans."

    "Morrison digs deeply into period newspapers and archives to uncover this story of injustice long overshadowed by the more famous Scottsboro Boys trial. A thoughtful look into a tale of prejudice and stolen justice that will find many readers who are interested in African American history, the early civil rights movement, and Southern history."

    "Morrison’s book is an ultimate tribute to a man who is seldom mentioned in the Civil Rights Movement, but was a true civil rights hero and who despite torture and mental cruelty always proclaimed his innocence."

    Murder on Shades Mountain is an outstanding case study that should find an audience among laypersons and among students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

    "The book ends, as it begins, with a call to each of us to do our own work. In the afterword, poignantly written in the form of a letter to her late father, Morrison states the brutal truth: 'The demonization and criminalization of black men remains a national disgrace.' Eighty-seven years after Willie Peterson was targeted on a Birmingham street corner, there is still much work to be done. This book offers inspiration to keep at it."

    "iI shifting attention from Scottsboro's sleepy courthouse square to Birmingham's industrialized and highly stratified terrain, Morrison offers fresh perspective on the structural violence that undergirded white supremacy."

  • “I devoured the whole impressive book, often reading late into the night. The ordeal of Willie Peterson in Depression Alabama has until now been a neglected episode in civil rights history. Melanie S. Morrison’s careful, compelling reconstruction of a tragic double murder turned judicial lynching unearths profound and, alas, enduring truths about the ways race and ideology deform human decency as well as justice.” — Diane McWhorter, author of, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution

    "With detail not often found in narratives of antiblack violence, Melanie S. Morrison's account of Willie Peterson's officially sanctioned murder—which has almost disappeared from the canon of black struggle—teaches us not only of the destructive power of racism but also of its systemic nature and the efforts long before the so-called 'civil rights era' to resist it. It resonates with the cradle-to-prison pipeline that plagues much of black life today. Well worth reading." — Charles E. Cobb Jr., author of, This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible

  • Permission to Photocopy (coursepacks)

    If you are requesting permission to photocopy material for classroom use, please contact the Copyright Clearance Center at copyright.com;

    If the Copyright Clearance Center cannot grant permission, you may request permission from our Copyrights & Permissions Manager (use Contact Information listed below).

    Permission to Reprint

    If you are requesting permission to reprint DUP material (journal or book selection) in another book or in any other format, contact our Copyrights & Permissions Manager (use Contact Information listed below).

    Images/Art

    Many images/art used in material copyrighted by Duke University Press are controlled, not by the Press, but by the owner of the image. Please check the credit line adjacent to the illustration, as well as the front and back matter of the book for a list of credits. You must obtain permission directly from the owner of the image. Occasionally, Duke University Press controls the rights to maps or other drawings. Please direct permission requests for these images to permissions@dukeupress.edu.
    For book covers to accompany reviews, please contact the publicity department.

    Subsidiary Rights/Foreign Translations

    If you're interested in a Duke University Press book for subsidiary rights/translations, please contact permissions@dukeupress.edu. Include the book title/author, rights sought, and estimated print run.

    Disability Requests

    Instructions for requesting an electronic text on behalf of a student with disabilities are available here.

    Rights & Permissions Contact Information

    Email: permissions@dukeupress.edu
    Email contact for coursepacks: asstpermissions@dukeupress.edu
    Fax: 919-688-4574
    Mail:
    Duke University Press
    Rights and Permissions
    905 W. Main Street
    Suite 18B
    Durham, NC 27701

    For all requests please include:
    1. Author's name. If book has an editor that is different from the article author, include editor's name also.
    2. Title of the journal article or book chapter and title of journal or title of book
    3. Page numbers (if excerpting, provide specifics)
    For coursepacks, please also note: The number of copies requested, the school and professor requesting
    For reprints and subsidiary rights, please also note: Your volume title, publication date, publisher, print run, page count, rights sought
  • Description

    One August night in 1931, on a secluded mountain ridge overlooking Birmingham, Alabama, three young white women were brutally attacked. The sole survivor, Nell Williams, age eighteen, said a black man had held the women captive for four hours before shooting them and disappearing into the woods. That same night, a reign of terror was unleashed on Birmingham's black community: black businesses were set ablaze, posses of armed white men roamed the streets, and dozens of black men were arrested in the largest manhunt in Jefferson County history. Weeks later, Nell identified Willie Peterson as the attacker who killed her sister Augusta and their friend Jennie Wood. With the exception of being black, Peterson bore little resemblance to the description Nell gave the police. An all-white jury convicted Peterson of murder and sentenced him to death.

    In Murder on Shades Mountain Melanie S. Morrison tells the gripping and tragic story of the attack and its aftermath—events that shook Birmingham to its core. Having first heard the story from her father—who dated Nell's youngest sister when he was a teenager—Morrison scoured the historical archives and documented the black-led campaigns that sought to overturn Peterson's unjust conviction, spearheaded by the NAACP and the Communist Party. The travesty of justice suffered by Peterson reveals how the judicial system could function as a lynch mob in the Jim Crow South. Murder on Shades Mountain also sheds new light on the struggle for justice in Depression-era Birmingham. This riveting narrative is a testament to the courageous predecessors of present-day movements that demand an end to racial profiling, police brutality, and the criminalization of black men.

    About The Author(s)

    Melanie S. Morrison, founder and executive director of Allies for Change (www.alliesforchange.org), is a social justice educator, author, and activist with thirty years' experience designing and facilitating transformational group process. Morrison is author of The Grace of Coming Home: Spirituality, Sexuality, and the Struggle for Justice and her writing has appeared in numerous periodicals. As a keynote speaker at national and regional conferences, she addresses racial, disability, and sexual justice. In 1994 Morrison founded Doing Our Own Work, an antiracism intensive for white people that has attracted hundreds of participants across the country. She has a master of divinity from Yale Divinity School and a Ph.D. from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, Morrison pastored congregations in Michigan and the Netherlands. As adjunct faculty, she has taught antiracism seminars at Chicago Theological Seminary and the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. She lives in Okemos, Michigan.
Explore More
Share

Create a reading list or add to an existing list. Sign-in or register now to continue.


Contact Us

  • Duke University Press
  • 905 W. Main St. Ste 18-B
  • Durham, NC 27701
  • U.S. phone (toll-free): 888-651-0122
  • International: 1-919-688-5134
  • orders@dukeupress.edu