Wednesday, July 7, 2010

THE EYES OF WILLIE MCGEE: REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY

GIVEAWAY ENDED
THE EYES OF WILLIE McGEE
BY ALEX HEARD

ABOUT THE BOOK:

A gripping saga of race and retribution in the Deep South and a story whose haunting details echo the themes of To Kill a Mockingbird

In 1945, Willie McGee, a young African-American man from Laurel, Mississippi, was sentenced to death for allegedly raping Willette Hawkins, a white housewife. At first, McGee's case was barely noticed, covered only in hostile Mississippi newspapers and far-left publications such as the Daily Worker. Then Bella Abzug, a young New York labor lawyer, was hired by the Civil Rights Congress—an aggressive civil rights organization with ties to the Communist Party of the United States—to oversee McGee's defense. Together with William Patterson, the son of a slave and a devout believer in the need for revolutionary change, Abzug and a group of white Mississippi lawyers risked their lives to plead McGee's case. After years of court battles, McGee's supporters flooded President Harry S. Truman and the U.S. Supreme Court with clemency pleas, and famous Americans—including William Faulkner, Albert Einstein, Jessica Mitford, Paul Robeson, Norman Mailer, and Josephine Baker—spoke out on McGee's behalf.

By the time the case ended in 1951 with McGee's public execution in Mississippi's infamous traveling electric chair, "Free Willie McGee" had become a rallying cry among civil rights activists, progressives, leftists, and Communist Party members. Their movement had succeeded in convincing millions of people worldwide that McGee had been framed and that the real story involved a consensual love affair between him and Mrs. Hawkins—one that she had instigated and controlled. As Heard discovered, this controversial theory is a doorway to a tangle of secrets that spawned a legacy of confusion, misinformation, and pain that still resonates today. The mysteries surrounding McGee's case live on in this provocative tale of justice in the Deep South.

Based on exhaustive documentary research—court transcripts, newspaper reports, archived papers, letters, FBI documents, and the recollections of family members on both sides—Mississippi native Alex Heard tells a moving and unforgettable story that evokes the bitter conflicts between black and white, North and South, in America.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Alex Heard is the editorial director of
Outside magazine. He has worked as an editor and writer at The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Wired, and The New Republic, and is the author of Apocalypse Pretty Soon. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

MY REVIEW:

THE THE EYES OF WILLIE McGEE by Alex Heard takes place in Mississippi back in 1945. This was a time when the South was still filled with racial tensions and divided loyalties, and we had just begun to see a tiny glimmer of hope that some small changes were taking place. This famous case is said to be the basis for Harper Lee’s famous TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD which celebrates its 50th anniversary in what many say is a classic and THE American novel. The main premise is that a black man was purported to have raped a white woman. Supposedly Willie McGee had gone into Willette Hawkins’ home and threatened her as she lie in bed with her baby by her side. He forced her to do the things he demanded and she complied out of fear for herself and her child. Then he disappeared back into the night. What was then reported was that she ran into the streets naked and screaming but did she really? Was she really the victim here or was he?

At the time in Mississippi, the Klu Klux Klan was alive and well and blacks were threatened and killed for all manner of things from not getting out of a white man’s way fast enough to trying to vote. When a black was accused their punishment was usually swift and could take the form of an angry mob and a lynching which was supposedly legal. Even blacks returning from the war and fighting for America were told that they still had no rights.

The case of Willette Hawkins and Willie McGee, however, caught the eye of some very important liberal figures including Bella Abzug who defended McGee, and others like Albert Einstein, William Faulkner, and Norman Mailer. It also caught the attention of the blacks enough to rally behind him as they spread the word, or perhaps rumor, that McGee and Hawkins had been having a secret affair for over a year. In those times, no respectable white woman would take up with a black man so Hawkins reputation came into question. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court but McGee was found guilty and electrocuted while Willette Hawkins and her family lived with the shame for many generations as the question of what really happened was never really answered. Instead, a decision, many say, was handed down based on racism.

Alex Heard did extensive research as the story comes to life through his well-written words. Heard contacted both families and along with that his research much is based on personal recall. I think Heard did enough to convince the reader that the story he told was sad but true. In a letter that Willie McGee wrote to his wife, he said “Tell the people that the real reason they are going to take my life is to keep the Negro down” is perhaps the most concrete and sadly descriptive evidence found. Take your time reading this book as it is an important one…summer has to have some balance to the light fare we mostly all like to take part in, now doesn’t it?


GIVEAWAY

THANK YOU TO AMANDA AT REGAL
LITERARY, I HAVE ONE COPY
OF THIS
INTERESTING BOOK TO
GIVE
AWAY TO ONE LUCKY WINNER!



--U.S. RESIDENTS ONLY
--NO P. O. BOXES
---INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS
IN CASE YOU WIN!
--ALL COMMENTS MUST BE SEPARATE TO
COUNT AS MORE THAN ONE!

HOW TO ENTER

+1 ENTRY:
COMMENT ON SOMETHING YOU FOUND INTERESTING ABOUT THE WRITTEN INFORMATION AND THE VIDEO ABOVE THAT MAKES YOU WANT TO WIN FOR THE EYES OF WILLIE McGEE

+1 MORE ENTRY:
BLOG OR TWEET ABOUT THIS GIVEAWAY AND THEN COME BACK AND LEAVE A LINK

+1 MORE ENTRY: COMMENT ON ONE OTHER CURRENT GIVEAWAY YOU HAVE ENTERED. ONLY ONE THIS TIME, PLEASE!


GIVEAWAY ENDS AT
6 PM, EST, JULY 12

61 comments:

Laura said...

I live in the south and love reading stories about the history of the south. Please enter me. I am a follower.
Laura
laura.leahj@gmail.com

amandawk said...

Tweeted. http://twitter.com/amandawk/status/17966625718

amandawk said...

I found it interesting McGee's supporters flooded President Harry S. Truman and the U.S. Supreme Court with clemency pleas.
amandarwest at gmaildotcom

Steve Capell said...

Our nation and the act of hatred and slavery has damaged the character of our constitution and lives of innocent people. Your review of this book and the historical significance of this era of time has intrigued me and for that reason I am placing my name in your contest giveaway. Thanks for hosting this giveaway.

steven(dot)capell(at)gmail(dot)com

Beverly said...

I have read To Kill a Mockingbird and would love the chance to read this book. The description intrigued and impressed me. Thanks for the giveaway.

Renee said...

I find it interesting that so many famous folks were on McGee's side

reneesuz82(at)msn.com

Beverly said...

I forgot my email address in my last comment - bevsharp@desch.org

traveler said...

I entered Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

traveler said...

A fascinating story that is emotional and enthralling. Thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

petite said...

I entered April and Oliver. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

petite said...

The history, significance and intriguing novel would be wonderful to read. thanks. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

Team JC said...

I enjoy reading books about the south. I am orginally from the midwest and now live in the south. This sounds like a very interesting book. I would love to read this one! Thanks!
schaefer7382 (at) aol (dot) com

Pamela Keener said...

I find it sad that McGee was executed and that his victim's family lived in shame. This is a heartbreaking story for all.
Love & Hugs,
Pam
pk4290(at)comcast(dot)net

Pamela Keener said...

I entered Take Hachette to the beach giveaway.
Love & Hugs,
Pam
pk4290(at)comcast(dot)net

Martha Lawson said...

I would love to read this one because the author is from Miss., the story takes place in Miss, and I'm from Miss. This looks like an awesome read, I hope I can win it!

I am a follower on gfc

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

Margie said...

I'd be interested in reading about this controversial case. I enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird, and would like to find out more about the case that led to that book.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Margie said...

+4 Swag
mtakala1 AT yahoo dOT com

Margie said...

I entered your Cowboy and Wills giveaway.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Tea said...

Boy, the video of Willie McGee is really moving. For a moment I felt like I was in Mississippi at that moment. I found it interesting to hear all the famous named people who fought to save Willie McGee from the "traveling electric chair." There was:Albert Einstein, Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson and many other famous people. They just knew this man was innocent.

teakettle58@yahoo.com

Tea said...

I also found it interesting that it's believed this is the case researched by Harper Lee for the background trial and accusation of rape in To Kill a Mockingbird.

I have also entered the Not My Boy Giveaway.

teakettle58(at)yahoo(dot)com

nfmgirl said...

I don't know that it is so much "interesting" as "horrifying" that they used to have a "traveling electric chair"!

I love books like this. Please count me in. Thank you!

nfmgirl said...

Blogged:
http://cerebralgirl.blogspot.com/2010/07/book-giveaways-in-blogworld-07-03-10.html

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

nfmgirl said...

I also entered the big Hachette Beach Giveaway!

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

Lauren said...

I would love to read this book because there is way too much that we need to learn about the not so long ago past history.I love non fiction!
myneurotica@gmail.com

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Ooh, this book has been on my reading list for awhile. Great giveaway!

fitz12383(at)hotmail(dot)com

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I tweeted:

http://twitter.com/bookmonstrosity/status/18086375446

fitz12383(at)hotmail(dot)com

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I found it interesting that McGee's case is said to be the basis for Harper Lee’s famous To Kill a Mockingbird.

fitz12383(at)hotmail(dot)com

LAMusing said...

I love historical fiction and To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorite all time reads, so I'd love to read this

adrianecoros(at)gmail(dot)com

LAMusing said...

I entered The Madonnas of Echo Park giveaway

adrianecoros(at)gmail(dot)com

enyl said...

Tweeted.
twitter.com@enylstil#eyes
enyl(at)inbox(dot)com

enyl said...

The most intresting tidbit mentioned, Albert Einstien found time to involve himself on Willie McGee's behalf.
enyl(at)inbox(dot)com

enyl said...

I entered the Rule of 9 contest because the plot contains some parallels to current events.
enyl(at)inbox(dot)com

Esme said...

I have entered the Emeril giveaway

chocolate and croissants at yahoo . com

Esme said...

Interesting that this event may have been the inspiration for To Kill a Mockingbird

chocolate and croissants at yahoo . com

Esme said...

cococroissants

http://bookinwithbingo.blogspot.com/2010/07/eyes-of-willie-mcgee-review-and.html

chocolate and croissants at yahoo . com

gcpeach17 said...

I found it interesting and commendable that several high profile people stepped up to the plate in an attempt to get Willie acquited of this accusation. I am as well shocked & horrified that there was a 'traveling electric chair'!!! Please, enter me. I would like to read more about this..

gcpeach17 at aol dot com

oomp said...

The radio broadcast of the execution is shocking. Great story that deserves a fresh look. NPR piece recently sheds new light on his final minutes.

oomp @ oomp (dot) net

oomp said...

http://twitter.com/oompahead/status/18144463839

tweeted

oomp said...

http://www.radiodiaries.org/audiohistory/storypages/mcgee.html

NPR piece.

Jolee said...

also entered the Madonnas of Echo Park. joleehamlin at comcast dot net

Jolee said...

Interesting that Harper Lee probably based To Kill a Mockingbird on this. joleehamlin at comcast dot net

Beverly said...

I would like to read this book as I am also interested in learning more about the South and race relations.

beachlover20855[AT]yahoo[DOT]com

Beverly said...

I have also entered the Beach5 contest

beachlover20855[AT]yaoo[DOT]com

pixie13 said...

I tweeted
http://twitter.com/pixie13sweeps/status/18240094361

gevin13{at}gmail{dot}com

pixie13 said...

I would like to read this book because I think it's important to remember the injustices of this world & I've read bits & pieces of this story before.

gevin13{at}gmail{dot}com

Christine H said...

+4swag chirth7@yahoo.com

Shirley said...

+4SWAG SHUNDELT@YAHOO.COM

Christina said...

+4 swag bucks
christina101092@yahoo.com

Jeff H said...

+4swag jeff72768@yahoo.com

Sarah E said...

The fact that Willie McGee's case was said to be the basis for Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird makes me want to read this novel. Please enter me in this giveaway!

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

Sarah E said...

I tweeted:

http://twitter.com/saemmerson/status/18278225207

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

Sarah E said...

I also entered the Madonnas of Echo Park giveaway.

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

Benita said...

I'm intrigued that so much of this story parallels To Kill a Mockingbird.

bgcchs(at)yahoo(dot)com

Benita said...

I entered Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English.

bgcchs(at)yahoo(dot)com

Shirley said...

https://twitter.com/Grandmamaof10/status/18353690959

shundelt@yahoo.com

Shirley said...

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001087052807&v=wall&story_fbid=136992046330221&ref=mf#!/profile.php?id=100001087052807&v=wall&story_fbid=137803489580813&ref=mf

shundelt@yahoo.com

Shirley said...

http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/shundelt45/review/43856659/

shundelt@yahoo.com

Shirley said...

http://bulletins.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=bulletin.read&authorID=540593519&messageID=6674646886&hash

shundelt@yahoo.com

Shirley said...

I entered THE KNIGHT LIFE

shundelt@yahoo.com

Debbie F said...

I just entered The Madonnas of Echo Park.

thanks
dcf_beth at verizon dot net

Debbie F said...

I was born in 1968 so the civil rights movement has always been an interest of mine. The struggles of the africian american was astounding. I would love to read this!
Thanks

dcf_beth at verizon dot net

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