Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America
by Gilbert King

HarperCollins/March 2012

Winner of the PULITZER PRIZE for General Nonfiction, 2013

A Finalist for the Edgar Award (Best Fact Crime) and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize


Book of the Year (Non-fiction: 2012) THE BOSTON GLOBE, CHRISTAN SCIENCE MONITOR

"Must-read, cannot-put-down history." - Thomas Friedman, New York Times

“Superb.” - Junot Diaz, author of This Is How You Lose Her

“A powerful and well-told drama of Southern injustice.” - The Chicago Tribune

“Gripping. . . . Lively and multidimensional.” - Dallas Morning News 

“Devil in the Grove is a compelling look at the case that forged Thurgood Marshall’s perception of himself as a crusader for civil rights. . . . King’s style [is] at once suspenseful and historically meticulous” - Christian Science Monitor

“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.” - Salon

“A taut, intensely readable narrative.” - Boston Globe

“The story’s drama and pathos make it a page-turner, but King’s attention to detail, fresh material, and evenhanded treatment of the villains make it a worthy contribution to the history of the period, while offering valuable insight into Marshall’s work and life.” - Publishers Weekly

“A thoroughgoing study of one of the most important civil-rights cases argued by Thurgood Marshall in dismantling Jim Crow strictures. . . . Deeply researched and superbly composed.”  - Kirkus (starred review) )

“A compelling chronicle.” - Booklist


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 seventeen-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," and the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century, 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.

About the Author
Gilbert King has written about Supreme Court history and the death penalty for the New York Times and the Washington Post, and he is a featured contributor to Smithsonian magazine's history blog, Past Imperfect, as well as the Washington Post's, The Root. His book, THE EXECUTION OF WILLIE FRANCIS was published in 2008. Gilbert is also a photographer whose work has appeared in Glamour and New York Magazine, as well as international editions of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Elle. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and a French bulldog named Louis. For more information, please go to