Join us for a book talk with Grace Elizabeth Hale, author of In the Pines: A Lynching, A Lie, A Reckoning. An audience Q&A will follow. This in-person event will be free and open to the public. We recommend arriving early for the best seating.
About the Book: An award-winning scholar of white supremacy tackles her toughest research assignment yet: the unsolved murder of a Black man in rural Mississippi while her grandfather was the local sheriff—a cold case that sheds new light on the hidden legacy of racial terror in America.
Grace Hale was home from college when she first heard the family legend. In 1947, while her beloved grandfather had been serving as a sheriff in the Piney Woods of south-central Mississippi, he prevented a lynch mob from killing a Black man who was in his jail on suspicion of raping a white woman—only for the suspect to die the next day during an escape attempt. It was a tale straight out of To Kill a Mockingbird, with her grandfather as the tragic hero. This story, however, hid a dark truth.
Years later, as a rising scholar of white supremacy, Hale revisited the story about her grandfather and Versie Johnson, the man who died in his custody. The more she learned about what had happened that day, the less sense she could make of her family’s version of events. With the support of a Carnegie fellowship, she immersed herself in the investigation. What she discovered would upend everything she thought she knew about her family, the tragedy, and this haunted strip of the South—because Johnson’s death, she found, was actually a lynching. But guilt did not lie with a faceless mob.
A story of obsession, injustice, and the ties that bind, In the Pines casts an unsparing eye over this intimate terrain, driven by a deep desire to set straight the historical record and to understand and subvert white racism, along with its structures, costs, and consequences—and the lies that sustain it.
About the Author: Grace Elizabeth Hale is the Commonwealth Professor of American Studies and History at the University of Virginia. An award-winning historian and internationally recognized expert on modern American culture and the regional culture of the US South, she has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, American Scholar, and CNN’s website, and has appeared as an expert on southern history on CNN, C-Span, and PBS. A recent Carnegie Fellow, she has also received fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and other organizations. The author of three previous books, including Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890–1940, she lives in Charlottesville, VA.
In the Pines will be released on November 7. To order the book, please see below for the New Dominion Bookshop book order form or call the shop at 434-295-2552.
"Courageous and compelling…essential and critically important."
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Grace Elizabeth Hale Photo Credit: William Wylie