Blood Rituals: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries, by Orlando Patterson
The title of Orlando Patterson’s book refers most immediately to the racially motivated lynchings in the old South, which he discusses in the second of the three interlocking essays that make up the text. But it also may speak sharply to the quasi-ritualistic categories in which current ideological debates on race and cultural are embedded. Both old-line liberals and conservatives will object strongly to many of Patterson’s claims, and few who are seriously interested in the problems he confronts will be entirely comfortable with what he says. Everyone, however, should find his book challenging and helpful.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).