On June 7, 1998, James Byrd, Jr., a forty-nine-year-old black man, was dragged to his death while chained to the back of a pickup truck driven by three young white men. It happened just outside of Jasper, a sleepy East Texas logging town that, within twenty-four hours of the discovery of the murder, would be inextricably linked in the nation’s imagination to an exceptionally brutal, modern-day lynching.
In this superbly written examination of the murder and its aftermath, award-winning journalist Joyce King brings us on a journey that begins at the crime scene and extends into the minds of the young men who so casually ended a man’s life. She takes us inside the prison in which two of them met for the first time, and she shows how it played a major role in shaping their attitudes—racial and otherwise. The result is a deeply engrossing psychological portrait of the accused and a powerful indictment of the American prison system’s ability to reform criminals. Finally, King writes with candor and clarity about how the events of that fateful night have affected her—as a black woman, a native Texan, and a journalist given the agonizing assignment of covering the trials of all three defendants. More than a spectacular true-crime debut, Hate Crime is a breathtaking work of reportage and a searing look at how the question of race continues to shape life in America.
A heartbreaking story of stupid hatred and the endless ramifications of one cruel and vicious act. This book mocks fatuous notions of closure. Joyce King eloquently demands that we subsume bigotry with respect and love. Her argument is angry, righteous, and tender.