Devil in the Grove

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Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America
Author Gilbert King
Published 2012

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King is a book about Thurgood Marshall's defense of four young black men in Lake County, Florida, who were falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1949. Published by Harper in 2012, the book was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction,[1][2] and in its citation, the Pulitzer Committee described it as "a richly detailed chronicle of racial injustice." Thomas Friedman of the New York Times called Devil in the Grove "must-read, cannot-put-down history."[3]

In addition to being named to several "Best Books of 2012" lists by newspapers such as the Christian Science Monitor and the Boston Globe.[citation needed] Devil in the Grove was nominated for the Chautauqua Prize[4] and an Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime.[citation needed] It won runner-up for the 2013 Dayton Literary Peace Prize.[5]

Lionsgate has acquired the rights to the book, deeming the project a "high priority".[6]


In 1949, Florida's orange industry was booming, and citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor. To maintain order and profits, they turned to Willis V. McCall, a violent sheriff who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a white seventeen-year-old Groveland girl cried rape, McCall was fast on the trail of four young blacks who dared to envision a future for themselves beyond the citrus groves. By day's end, the Ku Klux Klan had rolled into town, burning the homes of blacks to the ground and chasing hundreds into the swamps, hell-bent on lynching the young men who came to be known as "the Groveland Boys".

And so began the chain of events that would bring Thurgood Marshall, the man known as "Mr. Civil Rights", and the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century, into the deadly fray. Associates thought it was suicidal for him to wade into the "Florida Terror" at a time when he was irreplaceable to the burgeoning civil rights movement, but the lawyer would not shrink from the fight—not after the Klan had murdered one of Marshall's NAACP associates involved with the case and Marshall had endured continual threats that he would be next.

Drawing on a wealth of never-before-published material, including the FBI's unredacted Groveland case files, as well as unprecedented access to the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund files, King shines new light on Marshall, setting his narrative against the backdrop of a case that U.S. Supreme Court justice Robert H. Jackson decried as "one of the best examples of one of the worst menaces to American justice."


  1. ^ "Making a Name by Uncovering a Lost Case". New York Times. April 24, 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "The 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners General Nonfiction". Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Ron Charles (May 15, 2013). "Timothy Egan wins Chautauqua Prize for "Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher"". Washington Post. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  5. ^ Meredith Moss (September 24, 2013). "2013 Dayton Literary Peace Prize winners announced". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  6. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (2013-06-17). "Lionsgate Acquires Pulitzer Prize Winner ‘Devil In The Grove;’ Seminal Civil Rights Case For Thurgood Marshall". PMC. Retrieved 2014-03-11.