A Hanging in Nacogdoches: Murder, Race, Politics, and Polemics in Texas's Oldest Town, 1870-1916

A Hanging in Nacogdoches: Murder, Race, Politics, and Polemics in Texas's Oldest Town, 1870-1916

A Hanging in Nacogdoches: Murder, Race, Politics, and Polemics in Texas's Oldest Town, 1870-1916

A Hanging in Nacogdoches: Murder, Race, Politics, and Polemics in Texas's Oldest Town, 1870-1916

Synopsis

&"One of the most astute writers of American fiction" ( New York Times Book Review) delivers the resonant story of Alec Malone, a senator's son who rejects the family business of politics for a career as a newspaper photographer. Alec and his Swiss wife, Lucia, settle in Georgetown next door to a couple whose émigré gatherings in their garden remind Lucia of all the things Americans are not. She leaves Alec as his career founders on his refusal of an assignment to cover the Vietnam War &- a slyly subversive fictional choice from Ward Just, who was himself a renowned war correspondent.
At the center of the novel is Alec's unforeseen reckoning with Lucia's long-absent father, Andre Duran, a Czech living out the end of his life in a hostel called Goya House. Duran's career as an adventurer and antifascist commando is everything Alec's is not. The encounter forces Alec to confront just how different a life where things&-&"terrible things, terrible things"&-happen is from a life where nothing much happens at all.

Excerpt

This is the story of the hanging of a black man in the South for a grisly crime that he almost certainly committed.

Whether or not Jim Buchanan was guilty, his execution for the murders of three members of the same family was described many years later by the sheriff who brought him to justice as a “legal lynching.” Buchanan died in the town square of Nacogdoches, which calls itself the “Oldest Town in Texas,” just six days after the bodies of Duncan, Nerva, and Allie Hicks were found in their rural home in the hamlet of Black Jack, twentyfive miles east of Nacogdoches.

By the time Buchanan was hanged in front of hundreds of people—a goodly number of whom wanted to skip the legal niceties and burn him alive—his name was a household word across the South. Newspapers breathlessly recounted the desperate measures taken by lawmen to keep Buchanan from the lynch mobs determined to kill the young man—actions taken so that he could be brought back to Nacogdoches and legally executed.

This is also an account of race relations, politics, violence, and newspapering during one of the darker periods in southern history—when the promise offered by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation soon turned into bitter fruit, as blacks exchanged one form of bondage for another. the freedmen were no longer physically and legally bound to their masters. But the economic stranglehold of tenant farming and sharecropping meant that, in effect, little had changed. As the nineteenth century drew to a close, the few remaining political rights of blacks vanished as well, because Jim Crow laws ruled supreme everywhere south of the MasonDixon Line.

For a brief time, however, it appeared that Nacogdoches County— which had once been home to some of the luminaries of the Texas Revolution, though its shining light as a Texas star had long dimmed—would be a leader in a progressive movement that would battle not only to include blacks in the political process but also to push for economic justice for the . . .

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