The Child in the Electric Chair
121 pages
English

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121 pages
English

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Description

The tragic story of the killing of 14-year-old George Junius Stinney Jr., the youngest person executed in the United States during the twentieth century

At 7:30 a.m. on June 16, 1944, George Junius Stinney Jr. was escorted by four guards to the death chamber. Wearing socks but no shoes, the 14-year-old Black boy walked with his Bible tucked under his arm. The guards strapped his slight, five-foot-one-inch frame into the electric chair. His small size made it difficult to affix the electrode to his right leg and the face mask, which was clearly too large, fell to the floor when the executioner flipped the switch. That day, George Stinney became, and today remains, the youngest person executed in the United States during the twentieth century.

How was it possible, even in Jim Crow South Carolina, for a child to be convicted, sentenced to death, and executed based on circumstantial evidence in a trial that lasted only a few hours? Through extensive archival research and interviews with Stinney's contemporaries—men and women alive today who still carry distinctive memories of the events that rocked the small town of Alcolu and the entire state—Eli Faber pieces together the chain of events that led to this tragic injustice.

The first book to fully explore the events leading to Stinney's death, The Child in the Electric Chair offers a compelling narrative with a meticulously researched analysis of the world in which Stinney lived—the era of lynching, segregation, and racist assumptions about Black Americans. Faber explains how a systemically racist system, paired with the personal ambitions of powerful individuals, turned a blind eye to human decency and one of the basic tenets of the American legal system that individuals are innocent until proven guilty.

As society continues to grapple with the legacies of racial injustice, the story of George Stinney remains one that can teach us lessons about our collective past and present. By ably placing the Stinney case into a larger context, Faber reveals how this case is not just a travesty of justice locked in the era of the Jim Crow South but rather one that continues to resonate in our own time.

A foreword is provided by Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History Emerita at Baruch College at the City University of New York and author of several books including Civil War Wives: The Lives and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant.


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Informations

Publié par
Date de parution 25 juin 2021
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781643361956
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Extrait

The Child in the Electric Chair
The Child in the Electric Chair
The Execution of George Junius Stinney Jr. and the Making of a Tragedy in the American South
Eli Faber Foreword by Carol Berkin
2021 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
www.uscpress.com
Manufactured in the United States of America
30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/ .
ISBN 978-1-64336-194-9 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-1-64336-195-6 (ebook)
Front cover photograph
George Stinney Jr., 1944. Dept. of Corrections, Central Correctional Institution, Record of Prisoners Awaiting Execution. Inmate George Stinney, File #260. South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
In Honor of
Carol Ruth Berkin
Scholar, Teacher, Friend Extraordinaire
In Memory of
Gail Kotler
Brave, Compassionate, Wise
Daniel A. Sarot
He Never Gave Up
I give special thanks again, again, and again to my wife, Lani, for her undaunted love and support. Her help and constant friendship have made all the difference in my life and in the life of this project.
Justice: Justice shalt thou pursue.

Deuteronomy, 16:20
Contents
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Foreword
Carol Berkin
Note on Sources

Chapter 1.
June 16, 1944
Chapter 2.
A Company Town
Chapter 3.
March 24-25, 1944
Chapter 4.
Postponing a Lynching
Chapter 5.
The Road to Trial
Chapter 6.
Clarendon County Speaks
Chapter 7.
The Silence of the NAACP
Chapter 8.
The Governor
Chapter 9.
This Case Will Not Die
Ave Atque Vale
Abbreviations
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Illustrations
Photo of George Stinney Jr., 1944
George Stinney certificate of execution
Alcolu lumber mill complex
Handwritten testimony in Stinney case
Murder indictments against George Stinney
Clarendon County Courthouse
Department of Corrections Records
Evidence from Stinney indictment file
George Stinney s fingerprints
Acknowledgments
Lani Faber knew her husband s wishes well. She made a list of all those who Eli would have wanted thanked in his acknowledgments. This list includes Robert Alderman, descendent of the Alderman family who founded Alcolu and whose friendship opened many of the doors of Alcolu s residents to the author. It also includes Eli s longtime friends, Barry Latzer and Avi Mendelowitz, who provided much-needed legal information and advice about criminal law procedures. Ben Krull and Peter Freedman read the book as it progressed, offering suggestions about organization and style, while Tom Litwick, Ken Moran, Louis Lainer, and Lydia Rosner listened with patience and encouragement as Eli thought through thorny issues of analysis and structure. Scott Chen kept Eli s computer operating smoothly, ensuring that cyberdemons neither invaded nor carried manuscript pages off into cyberspace; the New York Public Library staff provided Eli with a home away from home during the long years of research and writing. Thanks also go to the anonymous peer reviewers whose careful reading of the draft manuscript provided critical editorial suggestions that guided both Eli s editor and Carol Berkin in producing the final version of the book. Lani Faber is especially grateful to Dr. Alice Zervoudakis and her staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering, whose herculean efforts gave Eli the time he needed to finish eight chapters of the manuscript.
Carol Berkin joins Lani Faber in thanking Cecelia Hartsell for doing the arduous work of compiling an index and all the staff at the University of South Carolina Press whose admirable skill turned the manuscript into a printed book. Finally, we both thank Ehren Foley, editor extraordinaire, for his enthusiasm for the project and his steadfast belief in its importance. In Ehren, Eli would have surely found his kindred spirit.
Foreword
Eli Faber and I met in graduate school, during the tumultuous years of antiwar protest, the rise of the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the occupation of college campus buildings by angry students. The friendship that quickly emerged between us was a bit of a surprise to us both-I was a proud lefty, quick to form my political opinions, always ready to join a picket line or a march in Washington, emotionally committed to that vision of a perfected world that defined much of my generation; Eli was intellectually though not actively engaged with all the same issues of the day, but he was maddeningly willing to see the complexities and ambiguities of our nation s political life. Yet, even in these early years, I recognized that Eli was that rare person, a man both honorable and sincere, a thoughtful man who did not wear his deep empathy for others on his sleeve or shout his intense commitment to justice from any rooftop. Luckily for me, our friendship lasted over fifty years.
When, a decade ago, Eli told me he was working on a book about South Carolina s 1944 execution of a young African American boy, I had misgivings. Historian and subject seemed a bad fit: Eli s roots were in Queens, New York, and he had lived a life untouched by violence or by the deep racial hatred that I, who grew up in Alabama in the 1940s and 50s, knew all too well. Could he make the necessary connection to the residents of small-town South Carolina, Black or White, he planned to interview? Would he understand the culture of the rural South? I needn t have feared. The people he interviewed in Alcolu and Stinney s aging siblings saw in Eli what I had seen so many years before: his sincere interest in understanding events and the people who were caught up in them. Eli knew how to listen-and thus they talked.
Eli worked on this book patiently. He scoured South Carolina archives and newspapers for accounts of the murder of the two young girls and the trial and execution of George Junius Stinney Jr. He interviewed eyewitnesses and poured over the interviews collected by another scholar years ago. Eli contacted Stinney family members, who were at first reluctant to share their memories with him but soon warmed to the project. He carefully and deeply read the literature on Jim Crow, lynching, and life in the mill towns of the South. Throughout these years, he labored to understand the motives and the actions of the men and women involved in Stinney s brief life and capture the cultural and social context in which the tragedy played out. As he at last began to write The Child in the Electric Chair , Eli confessed to me that the most difficult part of this project was coming to terms with the fact that he would never truly know the guilt or innocence of this fourteen-year-old boy who was convicted of murder. Yet he never doubted that Stinney s story must be told.
In the Fall of 2019, Eli called me with the terrible news: He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that February. Through all the chemo treatments, the doctor visits, and a bout with the COVID-19 virus, Eli continued to work on the book. He was not afraid of what lay ahead for him; he was only fearful that he would not have time to finish telling George Junius Stinney Jr. s story.
In January 2020, when he knew he was losing his battle with cancer, he called me with a request: Would I use his notes to write the final chapter, edit the manuscript, find a publisher, and see the book through to publication? I agreed. By the end of April, Eli was gone.
I kept my promise. I kept it not merely as an act of friendship-which it was-but also because, as I read the manuscript, I knew Eli had been right. I had in my keeping an important story that needed to be shared. In the current era of rising racism and the challenge to it by Black Lives Matter activists, our nation must finally reckon its past if it hopes to justly shape its future. I believe George Junius Stinney Jr. s story can help us grapple with this task. Eli Faber wrote this book because he believed it too.
Note on Sources
Writing about the life of George Junius Stinney Jr. and the times in which he lived has been a project requiring many years of gestation, not least because of the scarcity of original sources that historians regularly rely upon. No written accounts or memoirs by individuals who participated in the case or who were otherwise present at the time are known to exist, save for the recollections of an individual who was sixteen years old in 1944, the year of the dual murders of two young girls in the village of Alcolu, South Carolina, and the execution of fourteen-year-old George Stinney, which ensued only eighty-three days later. Contemporary newspaper accounts are few in number; investigative reporting by journalists is entirely nonexistent, in contrast to the mountain of coverage that a death sentence imposed upon a fourteen-year-old would actually happen, were such an event at all possible in today s world. Above all, there is no transcript of Stinney s trial because there was no appeal of the case to higher courts.
Interviews with individuals present in 1944 in Alcolu, South Carolina, have therefore been a source of inestimable importance in the effort to reconstruct what occurred and why. Paramount among these have been the interviews with Robert Lewis Alderman, a fourth-generation member of the family that established Alcolu, who has devoted much of his time and energy to preserving the history of the beloved village where he spent his early years. By opening many doors for interviews with other residents of Alcolu, b

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