Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Devil in the Grove (2012), a nonfiction account of an early case in the legal career of Thurgood Marshall, America's first African-American Supreme Court Justice, will read from and discuss his work on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, on the University at Albany's uptown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the same location. The events are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute in conjunction with CELEBRATE AND ADVANCE, a weeklong celebration culminating in the inauguration of UAlbany's 19th President, Robert J. Jones, Ph.D.
Gilbert King, Niskayuna native, received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (2012), a meticulously researched, elegantly written account of the future Supreme Court Justice's role in defending four black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in Florida in 1949. Of the four defendants, one was murdered by a white mob before he could stand trial, and two were murdered by the local county sheriff after they had been exonerated by the U. S. Supreme Court.
The Salon reviewer said, "King recreates an important yet overlooked moment in American history with a chilling, atmospheric narrative that reads more like a Southern Gothic novel than a work of history." The book was also named a "Best Book of 2012" by the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and Library Journal.
In writing Devil in the Grove, King obtained access to two heretofore unpublished and unpublicized sources of information: the confidential files of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the unedited files of the FBI. In previous, more comprehensive biographies of Marshall, the Groveland case had been treated as little more than a footnote to a distinguished legal career. King's research, however, brings back to life the shock and drama of a courtroom battle that established important legal precedents on the road to ending Jim Crow laws in the South.
King's relative rise from obscurity has generated a fair amount of interest in the writing community and on the internet. Especially remarked upon is the fact that, after the announcement that he had won the Pulitzer Prize, the surprised author informed a New York Times interviewer, "I'd just gotten a notice from my publisher that the book had been 'remaindered.'" Another ironic detail of King's biography is that he flunked English at Niskayuna High School and had to attend summer school after his junior year, according to an interview with Paul Grondahl of the Times Union.
A featured contributor to the Smithsonian magazine history blog, King is also the author of The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South (2008), an account of the wrongful conviction and death sentence of a 17-year-old black boy in Louisiana in 1946. The Counterpunch magazine reviewer called it, "...almost certainly the best book on capital punishment in America since Mailer's The Executioner's Song."
King's appearance is sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute in conjunction with "Celebrate and Advance," a weeklong celebration at UAlbany culminating in the inauguration of the new University president, Robert J. Jones. For additional information on all inauguration week events go to: www.albany.edu/inauguration .
For additional information on Gilbert King's appearances, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.