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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Winner, History, 2014

Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2013

Arguably the most important American lawyer of the 20th century, Thurgood Marshall was on the verge of bringing the landmark suit Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court when he became embroiled in an explosive and deadly case that threatened to change the course of the civil rights movement and cost him his life.

In 1949, Florida's orange industry was booming, and citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor. To maintain order and profits, they turned to Willis V. McCall, a violent sheriff who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a white 17-year-old Groveland girl cried rape, McCall was fast on the trail of four young blacks who dared to envision a future for themselves beyond the citrus groves. By day's end, the Ku Klux Klan had rolled into town, burning the homes of blacks to the ground and chasing hundreds into the swamps, hell-bent on lynching the young men who came to be known as the "Groveland Boys".

And so began the chain of events that would bring Thurgood Marshall, the man known as "Mr. Civil Rights", into the deadly fray. Associates thought it was suicidal for him to wade into the "Florida Terror" at a time when he was irreplaceable to the burgeoning civil rights movement, but the lawyer would not shrink from the fight - not after the Klan had murdered one of Marshall's NAACP associates involved with the case and Marshall had endured continual threats that he would be next.

Drawing on a wealth of never-before-published material, including the FBI's unredacted Groveland case files, as well as unprecedented access to the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund files, King shines new light on this remarkable civil rights crusader, setting his rich and driving narrative against the heroic backdrop of a case that U.S. Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson decried as "one of the best examples of one of the worst menaces to American justice."

©2012 Gilbert King (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Bill
  • Vancouver, WA, United States
  • 06-08-13

Stunning history of the Jim Crow south. Essential

Would you listen to Devil in the Grove again? Why?

Yes! The book deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize and it was a riveting listen.

What other book might you compare Devil in the Grove to and why?

No book compares. The story was unbelievable. A combination of true crime and courtroom thriller.

Which character – as performed by Peter Francis James – was your favorite?

Thurgood Marshall.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Too long for that.

Any additional comments?

This book deserves to become a classic. It is riveting and proves that truth is stranger than fiction. The story will frighten you, anger you and make you ashamed at the cruel treatment of African Americans by law enforcement personnel.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 01-17-14

the fight for civil rights

“Devil in the Grove” won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. Gilbert King did a lot of research to write the story; he goes into painstaking detail about the tactics used by Thurgood Marshall (future Supreme Court Judge) and his co-NAACP attorney Franklin Williams to chip away at the foundations of the Jim Crow Law. He documents in detail the reign of terror conducted in Lake County by the KKK and Sheriff Willis McCall who is portrayed as a ruthless brutal man. The book is about four black men falsely accused of raping Normal Lee Padgett, a 17 year old white woman in Groveland Florida in 1949. King’s research shows that there was no physical evidence and two of the Groveland Four were not even within a day’s drive of the area Padgett claimed the rape took place. Sheriff McCall killed two of the men while in his custody. He was never charged for the shootings. The other two were badly beaten many times but no one was ever charged with the beatings. The KKK burned to the ground the black community in Groveland. King details the complicated case involving 4 defendants, several trials, various appeals, numerous defense attorneys, multiple judges and different points of law. I learned a few pearls from the story 1) more black man were lynched in Florida than any other Southern State and 2) these were the type of cases that evidentially lead to removing the death penalty from rape cases. I was appalled at the treatment of black people by the white in Lake County, if the blacks were the main pickers of the oranges, I just cannot understand why they were beaten and killed. Dead men do not pick oranges. Also it is a disgrace to have Sheriff McCall be re-elected to office for over 20 years. I read this book because I am reading books about the Supreme Court Justices and even though this book takes place before Marshall was appointed to the court I thought it would provide me with an insight into the man, which the book did. Peter Francis James did an excellent job narrating the book.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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American Horror Story & Profiles in Courage

There are no words. Sad, horrible, despicable come to mind over and over. And then courage, honor, strength. I think this should be on a required reading list for US (white) citizens.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Essential to Understanding America

Any additional comments?

Having been born in 1952, this book helped me better understand the turmoil of the 1960s. Devil in the Grove was a chilling account of an America that had to change. It read like a real-life "To Kill a Mockingbird."<br/>

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Waltham, MA, United States
  • 06-22-14

Facscinating history; writing stretched out a bit

I'm very glad I listened to this book about racial injustice in Florida in the '50's. The book captured the racist time and place, but also captured the change that was starting to take place in America. It was good legal drama, riveting at times, and an engaging and painful human drama. Thurgood Marshall plays a big role as an NCAA lawyer defending black men of the rape of a white woman. My criticism is that for the first two-thirds of the book, background anecdotes took up more time than the narrative of the case. The strand of the story got lost among those side stories, including the people and the workings of the NCAA. Some background is interesting and important to the context of a story, but tighter editing could have made this a more engaging read and listen. The last third is excellent. As interesting as this is, an even better book is Simple Justice by Richard Kluger. That is about long legal journey leading to Brown v the Board of Education. That book was riveting from start to end.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • liz
  • Kansas
  • 03-04-15

Absolute excellence! Historical brilliance.

What did you love best about Devil in the Grove?

This book was great in so many ways, I loved the knowledge that I gained. I am always amazed by these true stories that took place in my lifetime, as they reveal such horrible human behaviors of hatred, blind ignorance and human suffering. I was so moved by this book that I decided to join my local chapter of the NAACP.

What did you like best about this story?

Gritty factual history telling the story of the early days of the NAACP and Thurgood Marshall, and a shameful case that America should not forget!

What does Peter Francis James bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His voice was commanding and powerful, and he carried the characters well.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

As stated earlier, I was so moved by the power of this story/history, that I joined the local chapter of my NAACP. As a caucasian American, my eyes were opened up even further to a shameful past that resonates today. My previous read along these lines was Nachez Burning, and that too, is an excellent listen.

Any additional comments?

This is just a fantastic listening experience, I was so fascinated by the true case that I did several additional google searches to learn even more, and Wikipedia has a lot of the factual details. I highly recommend it to my friends.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Terrific story -- Fascinating to the End

Any additional comments?

This is a terrific story that the author imbues with drama and suspense, despite the fact that we know the likely results from the beginning. I knew little about the details of Thurgood Marshall's legal work before he was appointed to the bench. It's clear from this story that he is a great man and a real American hero, who should be far more widely celebrated.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr.
  • Panama City, FL, United States
  • 06-27-14

Five star book... very interesting

I like history so I wanted to broaden my background on the fifties and civil rights issues. I knew of Thurgood Marshall's background regarding Brown and his position on the Supreme Court. Groveland opened up a whole new perspective for me. What Marshall had to go through prior to Brown was absolutely amazing. He really was a great man and deserved his position and fame. This was a great story. It kept my interest throughout the entire book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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It's an ugly, necessary read

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I almost quit listening to this book. As a white male who grew up in the Deep South, facing the very worst of our Deep Crow history was painful. The book also moves awkwardly in the first few chapters. It was very difficult to follow for a while. <br/><br/>But if we're going to have honest, fair conversations about race in America, it would be good for everyone to remember how bad it once was. Because it was really bad. <br/><br/>Thank God we've moved past the worst of our bigotry. I pray to God we'll overcome the rest of it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not a good narration- returned it.

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Definitely READ THE BOOK, just don't try to listen to this audiobook! Haven't heard this narrator before, but he read the book like a press realease, in 4-6 word phrases. That made it very hard to follow either the story or its characters. I finally got the hardcover edition from my local library. It turns out to be a a GREAT READ, along with photos of unfolding events, the key players, and the evidence presented at trial.

What did you like best about this story?

Thurgood Marshall is an icon in civil rights history. This is a well-researched telling of one of his landmark cases in the early 1950's.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kevin
  • 12-03-14

Amazing story, more shocking than any fiction

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I'm already recommending this book to many friends with an interest in history. It keeps you gripped and has some shocking twists made all the more shocking because of the truth behind the story.

What did you like best about this story?

The combination of history, politics, the narrative of a time that feels like light years away but when in fact many of the key characters are still alive or have only recently passed. It wasn't written or read in a dry way. It read like a hollywood film.

Have you listened to any of Peter Francis James’s other performances? How does this one compare?

The performance was excellent.

Any additional comments?

Download now and learn a bit about a very dark chapter in recent American history.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Bec
  • 12-01-15

Compelling

As a newcomer to the story of the Groveland Boys and Thurgood Marshall I found this a compelling listen. Beautifully narrated by Peter Francis James, the disturbing recount of Florida's racial history is ultimately a triumph of humanity and courage. Comprehensive, detailed and entertaining this book is wonderful truthful storytelling.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful