At the dawn of the twentieth century, America was a land of promise—and a land of segregation. Technology and innovation swept across the country—and criminals openly flouted the law. In Oxford, Mississippi, the tug-of-war between modernization and chaos was never as apparent as in 1901. When two federal marshals went to arrest moonshiner Will Mathis, the marshals never guessed they would be gruesomely murdered, their bodies burned. After a massive manhunt, Mathis—a white man—and Orlando Lester—a black man—were sentenced to death for the crime after multiple trials. Frenzied media and more than seven thousand people from across the nation descended on Oxford to see a black man and a white man hanged side by side.
Grippingly retold by master storyteller T. J. Ray, this riveting account draws on primary sources to breathe to life the words and thoughts of the criminals and their accomplices, families, and community. Side by Side is an engrossing exploration of the deeds of two men unequal in society’s eyes, equal in death. More than that, it paints a larger picture of a nation torn between past and future, between prejudice and progress.
About the Author
T. J. Ray earned his BA and MA in English from Mississippi College and his PhD from the University of Oregon. He taught English literature and grammar at the University of Mississippi in Oxford for thirty years and was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English, the Mississippi Philological Association, and many other organizations. Now retired, Ray pursues photography, working with his 1903 printing press, and exploring Oxford’s rich history.
SIDE BY SIDE
Moonshine and Murder in Mississippi
By T. J. Ray
TRUE CRIME / Murder / General
HISTORY / United States / State & Local / South
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century
264 pp. 6 x 9
16 photos 3 illus.
ISBN: 9781455621835 pb