Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America

Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America<br> By Laura Wexler | Scribner. $24.

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We like to think of lynching as a relic. Captured in grim, sepia-toned snapshots, the bodies dangling from trees and bridges appear decidedly premodern — etched, unmoving evidence of someone else’ s hatred. But on July 25, 1946, at the dawn of baby boom America, a vengeful white mob in Walton County, Georgia, murdered two young black couples. It may have been America’ s “last mass lynching,” but the crime’ s legacy remains very much alive.

Journalist Laura Wexler confesses that she’ d hoped to solve this still-open case — the brutality of which spurred the Truman administration to inaugurate a federal commission on civil rights. But the rural Georgia she negotiates — culturally segregated and premised upon an economy of mutual fear — is not so different from the one the FBI struggled with in its initial inquiry.

Through archival reports and Þrsthand interviews, Wexler offers fresh insights into the histories of the victims and suspects in the crime. But in the end, whether out of stubbornness, resignation, or fear, no one seems much inclined to set the record straight. Those closest to the murders haven’ t spoken for decades — and in those who haven’ t already died, the truth most certainly has.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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