Contempt of Court: The Turn of the Century Lynching that Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism
By Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips, Jr.

"Legal writer Curriden and lawyer Phillips use interviews, court transcripts, and newspaper accounts to bring immediacy to the historic events in this precedent-setting case of a black man, Ed Johnson, lynched despite a Supreme Court order staying his execution. The authors show the gross racial prejudice and cynicism that prompted a Tennessee sheriff to accommodate Johnson's lynching in 1906, days before an election and in open defiance of the Supreme Court. The pervasive racism was evident from the investigation of the rape of a white woman through the trial and reluctant appeal--the intimidation of black lawyers who took up the appeal by citizens, courts, and police was widespread. The authors object to the relative obscurity of the case against Sheriff Shipp, though it set the precedent of federal jurisdiction over state courts on some issues and represented the first time in the long, sordid history of U.S. race relations that lynchers were identified, tried, and found guilty. This is a compelling story, which, the authors rightly submit, ‘provides unique insight into our dual criminal-justice system, that of state and federal courts.’"

-- Vanessa Bush, American Library Association.

Mark Curriden is the legal affairs writer for The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Dallas, Texas. Leroy Phillips is a prominent trial attorney. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

400 pages, published by Faber & Faber, 1999. Hardcover. ISBN: 0571199526

Copyright 2000, The American Civil Liberties Union