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The Body in the ReservoirMurder and Sensationalism in the South$
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Michael Ayers Trotti

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780807831786

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807899038_trotti

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African American Sensations

African American Sensations

Jim Crow Justice and the Richmond Planet

(p.111) 4 African American Sensations
The Body in the Reservoir

Michael Ayers Trotti

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter discusses the saga of the Lunenburg women, which provides a sort of best-case scenario for blacks facing southern justice in the Jim Crow era. The Lunenburg women resided in Virginia rather than the still more prejudicial deep South. Lunenburg County was 60 percent black, and in 1895 this population was not yet fully humbled by disfranchisement. Black as well as white citizens sat on their juries in the first series of trials. The defendants were women, and what chivalry whites could muster for black womanhood therefore softened the hardest edges of Virginia's judicial system. The case attracted enough attention that prominent white lawyers helped to protect the rights of the accused. The case against them stood chiefly upon the weak evidence of an accusation from a black man who was himself accused of the crime. It is a measure of southern racism that the Lunenburg women were repeatedly convicted in the Virginia courts.

Keywords:   Lunenburg women, southern justice, Jim Crow era, deep South, Lunenburg County

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