Wednesday, January 24, 2018

“Robert Whitaker unearths a dark historical event in a creative and powerful way.  Don’t miss this book!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    –Cornel West

Read the First Chapter

Named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the best nonfiction books of 2008.

About On the Laps of Gods

On the night of September 30, 1919, black sharecroppers in Hoop Spur, Arkansas, deep in the Mississippi Delta, gathered in a humble wooden church. They had recently joined a fledgling farmers’ union, and they were meeting that night to decide whether to hire an attorney to sue their plantation owners. This year, they wanted to get their fair share of the cotton crop.

The sharecroppers were contemplating taking this bold step at the very moment that the United States appeared to be on the verge of a racial civil war. There had been racial fighting in 25 cities and towns during the summer of 1919, and in September, the nation had been wracked by news of one horrific lynching after another.

What happened in Phillips County during the first few days of October has long been a subject of controversy. A narrative history, On the Laps of Gods provides a documented, detailed account of the killing that erupted there. It also tells of how that shameful event gave rise to an epic legal struggle, known as Moore v. Dempsey, that ultimately remade our nation. The legal battle, which gave new life to the 14th Amendment, was led by an extraordinary attorney, Scipio Africanus Jones, who had been born a slave.

About the Documents

You can use this site to review many of the source documents.

  • Accounts of lynchings that led up to the Red Summer of 1919.
  • Papers of the sharecroppers’ union.
  • Newspaper and magazine accounts of the “Elaine Riot.”
  • Ida B. Wells’ account of the “Arkansas Riot.”
  • Court documents from the Moore v. Dempsey case.

The Murdered

The Twelve Condemned to Die

The Attorney: Scipio Jones