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He calls me by lightning: the life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten saga of Jim Crow, southern justice, and the death penalty

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Publisher:
Liveright Publishing Corporation,
Pub. Date:
[2017]
Edition:
First edition.
Language:
English
Description

Caliph Washington didn't pull the trigger but, as Officer James "Cowboy" Clark lay dying, he had no choice but to turn on his heel and run. The year was 1957; Cowboy Clark was white, Caliph Washington was black, and this was the Jim Crow South.

As He Calls Me by Lightning painstakingly chronicles, Washington, then a seventeen-year-old simply returning home after a double date, was swiftly arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. The young man endured the horrors of a hellish prison system for thirteen years, a term that included various stints on death row fearing the "lightning" of the electric chair. Twentieth-century legal history is tragically littered with thousands of stories of such judicial cruelty, but S. Jonathan Bass's account is remarkable in that he has been able to meticulously re-create Washington's saga, animating a life that was not supposed to matter.

Given the familiar paradigm of an African American man being falsely accused of killing a white policeman, it would be all too easy to apply a reductionist view to the story. What makes He Calls Me by Lightning so unusual are a spate of unknown variables--most prominently the fact that Governor George Wallace, nationally infamous for his active advocacy of segregation, did, in fact, save this death row inmate's life. As we discover, Wallace stayed Washington's execution not once but more than a dozen times, reflecting a philosophy about the death penalty that has not been perpetuated by his successors.

Other details make Washington's story significant to legal history, not the least of which is that the defendant endured three separate trials and then was held in a county jail for five more years before being convicted of second-degree murder in 1970; this decision was overturned as well, although the charges were never dismissed. Bass's account is also particularly noteworthy for his evocation of Washington's native Bessemer, a gritty, industrial city lying only thirteen miles to the east of Birmingham, Alabama, whose singularly fascinating story is frequently overlooked by historians.

By rescuing Washington's unknown life trajectory--along with the stories of his intrepid lawyers, David Hood Jr. and Orzell Billingsley, and Christine Luna, an Italian-American teacher and activist who would become Washington's bride upon his release--Bass brings to multidimensional life many different strands of the civil rights movement. Devastating and essential, He Calls Me by Lightning demands that we take into account the thousands of lives cast away by systemic racism, and powerfully demonstrates just how much we still do not know.

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ISBN:
9781631492372
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Grouping Information

Grouped Work ID58c778e9-d587-b764-dc3c-420d4d8a4463
Grouping Titlehe calls me by lightning the life of caliph washington and the forgotten saga of jim crow southern justice and the death penalty
Grouping Authors jonathan bass
Grouping Categorybook
Grouping LanguageEnglish (eng)
Last Grouping Update2020-09-19 04:16:46AM
Last Indexed2020-09-19 04:43:07AM
Novelist Primary ISBNnone

Solr Details

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authorBass, S. Jonathan,
author_displayBass, S. Jonathan
available_at_aacplBroadneck Library
collection_aacplADULT
detailed_location_aacplBroadneck Library - Nonfiction
display_description" ... Reconstruction of the ... life of a wrongfully convicted man whose story becomes an historic portrait of the Jim Crow South"--
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item_details
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owning_library_aacplAnne Arundel County Public Library
owning_location_aacplBroadneck Library
primary_isbn9781631492372
publishDate2017
record_details
Bib IdFormatFormat CategoryEditionLanguagePublisherPublication DatePhysical Description
ils:a1379284BookBooksFirst edition.EnglishLiveright Publishing Corporation, [2017]xvi, 413 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
recordtypegrouped_work
scoping_details_aacpl
Bib IdItem IdGrouped StatusStatusLocally OwnedAvailableHoldableBookableIn Library Use OnlyLibrary OwnedHoldable PTypesBookable PTypesLocal Url
ils:a137928431997095319752On ShelfOn Shelffalsetruetruefalsefalsetrue
subject_facetAfrican American prisoners -- Alabama -- Biography
Alabama -- Race relations -- History
Biographies
Death row inmates -- Alabama -- Biography
Discrimination in criminal justice administration -- Alabama -- History
HISTORY / African American
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century
HISTORY / United States / State & Local / South (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV)
LAW / Legal History
Washington, Caliph, -- 1939-2001
title_displayHe calls me by lightning : the life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten saga of Jim Crow, southern justice, and the death penalty
title_fullHe calls me by lightning : the life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten saga of Jim Crow, southern justice, and the death penalty / S. Jonathan Bass
title_shortHe calls me by lightning
title_subthe life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten saga of Jim Crow, southern justice, and the death penalty
topic_facetAfrican American prisoners
Death row inmates
Discrimination in criminal justice administration
HISTORY / African American
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century
HISTORY / United States / State & Local / South (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV)
History
LAW / Legal History
Race relations
Washington, Caliph