Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America

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‘Fire in a canebrake’ is quite a scorcher by Laura Wexler and which focuses on the last mass lynching which occurred in the American Deep South, the one in the heartland of rural Georgia, precisely Walton County, Georgia on 25th July, 1946, less than a year after the Second World War. Wexler narrates the story of the four black sharecroppers who met their end ‘at the hand of person’s unknown’ when an undisclosed number of white men simply shot the blacks to death. The author concentrates on the way the evidence was collected in those eerie post war times and how the FBI was actually involved in the case, but how nothing came of their extensive investigations.
Interestingly, the book does not focus solely on the Georgia lynching, but
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I would describe it as the definitive work on the Moore’s Ford lynching apart from the fact that it also reads exclusively like a novel. The description of the lynching is a fairly standard one; four helpless blacks (including two women) were shot in cold blood on the banks of the Apalachee River which is about nine miles from the town of Monroe, Walton County, Georgia, a town which was certainly not a stranger to violence. Wexler’s’ detailed investigation into the case reveals how men like Loy Harrison as well as his lawyer James Arnold worked assiduously together to derail the FBI investigation. The 1948 Senate election is also given some publicity since it ensured the election Herman Talmadge, an out and out racist who would ensure that the blacks of Georgia would be ‘put in their place’.
Wexler unearths evidence that the Klan was very active in counties such as Walton and Oconee where certain individuals such as James Arnold held high offices in the Klan’s of these counties. Another important personage who features regularly in Wexler’s narrative is Stetson Kennedy who was also present for particular Klan meetings. Dr Samuel Green is also another important figure and he is also mentioned by Wexler in her narrative.
The book also focuses on the FBI investigation which was quite poorly conducted and also lacked the co-operation of state officials. One also has to consider that Georgia was the home of that arch-segregationist William Russell who

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