Quotes from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America

Gilbert King ·  434 pages

Rating: (7.7K votes)


“There is a law governing the meeting of the races. When a powerful race meets a helpless race, two things happen. First, there is a carnival of crime. Cruelty and oppression take place: some men in each race become hard-hearted. But the reverse also happens thereafter; goodness and mercy are developed; certain men become saints and heroes. —John Jay Chapman, The”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“After World War I, dozens of Negro soldiers had been lynched in the South, some of them still wearing their uniforms, and in the summer of 1946 the lynchings of black veterans resumed with a vengeance.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“There is very little truth in the old refrain that one cannot legislate equality. Laws not only provide concrete benefits, they can even change the hearts of men—some men, anyhow—for good or evil.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for his part, was less than enthralled with his wife’s alliance with the NAACP, and the White House attempted to maintain a distance between the president and Eleanor’s activism on behalf of blacks. Marshall himself had felt the president’s chill when Attorney General Francis Biddle phoned FDR to discuss the NAACP’s involvement in a race case in Virginia. At Biddle’s instruction, Marshall picked up an extension phone to listen in, only to hear FDR exclaim, “I warned you not to call me again about any of Eleanor’s niggers. Call me one more time and you are fired.” Marshall later recalled, “The President only said ‘nigger’ once, but once was enough for me.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“They tried to make me say that I had been with the group of fellows that raped a white woman,” Shepherd said. “It was terrible the way I was whipped, there was just knots all over me. They said they were not going to stop whipping me until I said that I was the one. I kept telling them I was in Orlando where I was. Finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I said yes.” Shepherd said yes, he raped Norma Padgett, and the men dropped their hoses. Yates told Shepherd he could have “saved all the beating” if he had just said yes the first time they asked.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America



“From 1882 to 1930, Florida recorded more lynchings of black people (266) than any other state, and from 1900 to 1930, a per capita lynching rate twice that of Mississippi, Georgia, or Louisiana.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“Marshall would later say, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“A lawyer’s either a social engineer or he’s a parasite on society.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“Laws not only provide concrete benefits, they can even change the hearts of men—some men, anyhow—for good or evil.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“Marshall also called upon the left-leaning Florida senator Claude Pepper to exert his influence in the case. Invoking patriotism, Marshall reminded the senator that the War Department had recently confirmed stories of American servicemen who had been tortured by the Japanese in Philippine prison camps and argued that the lynching of a fifteen-year-old boy would taint America’s international reputation: “the type of material that radio Tokio [sic] is constantly on the alert for and will use effectively in attempting to offset our very legitimate protest in respect to the handling of American citizens who unfortunately are prisoners of war.” Claude Pepper refused to get involved.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America



“The “Florida bail bond racket” was, according to a former Orlando newspaper editor, the “most lucrative business in the state.” The bondsmen worked hand in glove with employers to secure labor in exchange for fines and bond costs. Citrus grove foremen informed bondsmen how many men were needed, and workers were “secured from the stockades.” If workers attempted to flee across state lines, they could be recaptured “without the formality of extradition proceedings.” They had no choice but to work to pay off their fines at whatever grove or camp they were taken to, and they often worked under the supervision of armed guards, as they might on a chain gang.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“That every man, no matter what his color or race or creed might be, and no matter what the crime that he is charged with, each man in those circumstances is entitled to the fairest treatment that anybody can possibly give him.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“There are enough staid people in the world holding things as they are. We need no more of them. What we need is people caught by the truth that no one is free when anyone is bound. That is not an easy idea to have get a hold on you. It has to be applied person by person, not just in the pious generalities of the resolutions good people pass when they gather for a moment and separate without effective action. Marshall”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“Aside from the teachers’ pay, voting, education, and transportation cases that constantly occupied the LDF in its multipronged legal attack on Jim Crow, a steady stream of capital rape cases continually flooded its offices. Marshall had long been aware that such charges raised serious human rights issues, since the death penalty for rape was “a sentence that had been more consistently and more blatantly racist in application than any other in American law.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“To make it tougher, on the eve of the election 250 hooded Klansman formed a motorcade that snaked its way through Lake County, “warning blacks not to vote if they valued their lives.” Trailing behind the motorcade in a big Oldsmobile, his trademark white Stetson visible to all, was the incumbent sheriff himself, “making no attempt to interfere” when the Klansmen stopped to burn a cross in front of a black juke joint in Leesburg.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America



“The death of Willie James Howard was effectively shelved in 1945. Beyond the Justice Department, Moore and Marshall had nowhere to go. The process of the case, frustrating in the extreme from its deplorable beginning to its unjust end, was a repulsive reminder to Moore and Marshall of the ruthless measures men took to protect the flower that was “Southern white womanhood.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“No tea for the feeble, no crepe for the dead.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“Quigley and Matthews took their investigation in Lake County beyond law enforcement personnel and established witnesses to civic officials, politicians, prominent businessmen, and grove owners in this largely rural area of central Florida with a population of thirty-six thousand. What they discovered was a county controlled not by politics, money, the citrus industry, or the law, but by an embittered contingent of the Ku Klux Klan intent upon codifying a racial caste system, through violent means if necessary, that would effectively deny blacks access to political influence, economic opportunity, and social justice.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“Jack E. Davis, a University of Florida history professor who studied racial violence in the South, concluded that “a black man had more risk of being lynched in Florida than any other place in the country.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“WILLIAMS’S STAY IN Orlando was proving to be fruitful. His investigation of the case against the Groveland Boys took him to Terence McCarthy, whose coverage of the story for the New Leader, a leftist intellectual weekly newspaper “devoted to the Socialist and Labor movements,” had convinced him—as he would convince Williams—that the case had more to do with race and the citrus industry, with intimidation tactics and status, than it did with the alleged rape of Norma Padgett.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America



“Fuller Warren had won the 1948 election by running as a moderate and promising to ease racial tension and violence in Florida. He’d denounced the Klansmen who paraded through Lake County on election night (with Sheriff Willis McCall following behind) as “hooded hoodlums and sheeted jerks,” and Moore cautiously held out some hope for the new governor. Warren had admitted to being a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, but renouncing his past, like many a politician before and since, he’d stated that he had joined years before “as a favor to a friend” and that he “never wore a hood.” Moore did not adopt a wait-and-see approach with the new governor.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“Government, too, must have qualities of the spirit,” Collins told the crowd. “Truth and justice and fairness and unselfish service are some of these. Without these qualities there is no worthwhile”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“Government, too, must have qualities of the spirit,” Collins told the crowd. “Truth and justice and fairness and unselfish service are some of these. Without these qualities there is no worthwhile leadership, and we grapple and grope in a moral wilderness.” Marshall”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“Just days after the alleged rape, Florida newspapers were calling for capital punishment of the Groveland Boys. (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Visual Materials from the NAACP Records)”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“BY THE HUNDREDS, blacks cleared out of Groveland on the backs of citrus trucks. Others took blankets, food, and water and fled with their children into the pine leaf forests, surer than rumor that the Ku Klux Klan would be coming from all directions to burn down Stuckey Still, the black enclave west of Groveland.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America



“two Florida Highway Patrol cars and a third, black car pulled up in front of the house, and several white men emerged, among them the deputies Campbell and Yates. “Where is the guy that was with you last night?” Yates asked Shepherd, and what began with that question led to the beatings he and Irvin endured on the deserted clay road outside of Groveland. “They must have beat us about a half hour,” Shepherd told the lawyers, who were at once riveted and appalled by his testimony. After the beating, he and Irvin were shoved back into the patrol car. Irvin’s shirt was drenched in blood, and when he reached his hand up to his head he felt “a big chunk knocked out of it.” A patrolman told them to scoot up to the edge of the seat so their blood wouldn’t drip onto the upholstery.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“who wouldn’t confess after brutal beatings, and who wouldn’t die after having been shot three times.” Marshall, too, was at a loss for words, though in that moment he knew “damn well that man was innocent.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


“Nigger, you are gonna tell us the truth or we are gonna beat the hell out of you,” Campbell warned. “We will make you tell it.” They were in the bowels of the jail. Irvin surveyed the basement room; a number of pipes ran the length of the room, which housed “a lot of motors.” The deputies hoisted Irvin up; they cuffed his hands to an overhead pipe. As Irvin stood only five foot two, his feet did not reach the floor. Satisfied that Irvin was hanging securely, Yates and Campbell took turns beating him with a leaded rubber hose.”
― Gilbert King, quote from Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America


About the author

Gilbert King
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