Beneath A Ruthless Sun

Beneath A Ruthless Sun

A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found

Book - 2018
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The gripping true story of a small town with a big secret. In December 1957, the wife of a Florida citrus baron is raped in her home while her husband is away. She claims a "husky Negro" did it, and the sheriff, the infamous racist Willis McCall, does not hesitate to round up a herd of suspects. But within days, McCall turns his sights on Jesse Daniels, a gentle, mentally impaired white nineteen-year-old. Soon Jesse is railroaded up to the state hospital for the insane, and locked away without trial. But crusading journalist Mabel Norris Reese cannot stop fretting over the case and its baffling outcome. Who was protecting whom, or what? She pursues the story for years, chasing down leads, hitting dead ends, winning unlikely allies. Bit by bit, the unspeakable truths behind a conspiracy that shocked a community into silence begin to surface. Beneath a Ruthless Sun tells a powerful, page-turning story rooted in the fears that rippled through the South as integration began to take hold, sparking a surge of virulent racism that savaged the vulnerable, debased the powerful, and roils our own times still.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2018
ISBN: 9780399183386
Branch Call Number: 364.1532 King
Characteristics: 416 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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PimaLib_NormS Jun 17, 2019

Jesse Daniels was 19 in December 1957 when his life was turned upside down. He was known in his community as the “boy on the bike”. He had a pronounced stutter, and was thought to be, in the vernacular of 1957, retarded. On that fateful December night, Jesse was framed for a crime he could not possibly have committed. But, why? In “Beneath a Ruthless Sun: “A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found”, Gilbert King tells Jesse’s story in surprising detail, considering this event happened more than sixty years ago. King recognized that this was more than the tale of a mentally challenged young man who got caught up in a situation that required a fall guy. This book also exposes the secrets of a poor, backwater Florida county in the 1950s, a county run by a racist sheriff and his racist deputies, who were enabled by racist prosecutors and racist judges, and whose heinous brand of “justice” was ignored by racist office holders. Jim Crow and segregation were strictly enforced by the white power structure, and woe unto anyone who got in the way. Sometimes those that entered the legal system in Lake County never came back. There was something about the Jesse Daniels story, though, that did not fit with the usual goings on in Lake County, because Jesse was . . . ah . . . no. No spoilers here. Read the excellent “Beneath a Ruthless Sun” for yourself.

May 22, 2018

Jesse Daniel’s story is one of despair;
bookended by a corrupt Sheriff and a tenacious reporter.
This is one important work on how American history is
imbedded in racism.
Daniel’s eventual vindication does little to extinguish
the memory or consequences of the relentless indignities he suffered,
But it does serve to honour those who tirelessly stood by him while confronting
pure evil.


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