4 Stars · Middle Grade Books · Uncategorized

Review: Unpunished Murder – Lawrence Goldstone

Wow guys! I can not believe how much a good read can do to get you out of a slump. After finishing Harry Potter, I came back to my current read and just flew through it. It wasn’t a five star by no means, but I was just determined to finish it. Am I the only one, or does everyone get these insane energy bombs after a good read?

The material in Unpunished Murder by Lawrence Goldstone at hand was tough, as the synopsis following will help to understand. Lawrence Goldstone - Unpunished Murder

On Easter Sunday of 1873, just eight years after the Civil War ended, a band of white supremacists marched into Grant Parish, Louisiana, and massacred over one hundred unarmed African Americans. The court case that followed reached the highest court in the land. Yet, following one of the most ghastly incidents of mass murder in American history, not one person was convicted.

The opinion issued by the Supreme Court in US v. Cruikshank set in motion a process that would help create a society in which black Americans were oppressed and denied basic human rights — legally, according to the courts. These injustices paved the way for Jim Crow and would last for the next hundred years. Many continue to exist to this day.

In this compelling and thoroughly researched volume for young readers, Lawrence Goldstone traces the evolution of the law and the fascinating characters involved in the story of how the Supreme Court helped institutionalize racism in the American justice system.

Below are the many reasons why I liked reading this book:

1. The writing and language itself is clear and concise. The book was originally marketed toward 8-12 year olds. On the scholastic website, it now says that the target audience is 12-18 year olds. In either case, the language itself is clear enough to be understood by either age group. Goldstone makes a point to define any words that may be unknown, with a glossary to aid the writing. Even as an adult, I appreciated the way that his argument was logical, concise, and well explained. Perhaps for younger children, reading with a parent or someone older may help with processing the book – but that I will explain a little further below.

2. There were so many pictures and visual aids. I think the fact that this was a historical narrative nonfiction made it a little dry, but alongside the writing and glossary were pictures of the individuals in question, of the amendments – even political cartoons of the time. That helped to hold my attention and make the history written in the pages of Unpunished Murder much more real.

3. The topic itself was a very well researched and presented argument on how the Justice system in our country failed the very men that Congress was trying to protect, and how it helped to instill a new form of slavery (in all but name) throughout the Jim Crow South. As I read, I found myself shocked at how long racism persisted, and continues to persist. I couldn’t believe the ways that people found to justify their intolerance of race. If you’re hoping to spark a conversation with your children, or perhaps be more knowledgeable about racism in our country, this is one angle that hasn’t often been discussed but needs to be. The rulings of the Supreme Court really did set our country down a long and perilous path. They say that only those who learn history can prevent it from repeating itself – I really hope that everyone takes the time to learn about this ugly part of history, and to teach their kids as well.

I didn’t like however, that there were times when the names and dates all got a little jumbled together. While the language was clear, I found myself needing to write down, or backtrack, when all the names began to run together. Its understandable when speaking about history that there will be many players, and there really is no way around it, but perhaps in a book for younger students, it may have been helpful to be slower about transitioning from name to name, or perhaps a reminder of who each person is.

Regardless, read this book. Read it to your kids, to your class. Start a conversation. The atrocities of this tragic time should not continue to occur in our era. The issue of race that has been fought for over a century should no longer be an issue. Lets learn to love each other a little more. Lets try to find liberty, and justice, for all.

11 thoughts on “Review: Unpunished Murder – Lawrence Goldstone

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