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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 11, 2005

Historian Lebsock Reads Feb. 23 On WSUI 'Live From Prairie Lights'

Bancroft Prize Winning Historian Suzanne Lebsock will read from her new book, "A Murder in Virginia," at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23 on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910.

The reading, hosted by Julie Englander, will be a free event at the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

"A Murder in Virginia: Southern Justice on Trial" examines the death of a white woman in 1895 and the experience of the four blacks put on trial for murder.

As Publishers Weekly summarized, "In recounting a 1895 murder investigation and trial in Lunenberg County, Va., Lebsock ('The Free Women of Petersburg') meticulously brings to life a lost episode of a small, segregated Southern town and frames it against the backdrop of racial strife in the country as a whole.

"When the wife of a prominent Lunenberg man is murdered with an ax, a black farmhand, Solomon Marable, is immediately arrested. He shocks everyone by accusing three black women of the crime, and a dramatic set of trials ensues. Lebsock recounts the improbable roles of lawyers, judges, politicians, the black community and the defendants themselves in the case . . . Marable paid for the crime with his life, but Lebsock, a professor of history at the University of Washington, is not sure he did it; she presents the case from both sides, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions.

"Throughout, Lebsock employs a clear, precise prose, and packs the book with the sort of detail that will satisfy procedural junkies. For history buffs, the book provides a fascinating, microcosmic glimpse into the politics and law of late Reconstruction, at a moment when the U.S. was poised on the brink of the 20th century. Moreover, Lebsock perfectly captures the manner in which the town mobilized to give the women (if not Marable) a fair trial, and the ways in which individual personalities influenced that process, lending this book a human interest beyond its time and place."

The recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, Lebsock is now the Board of Governors Professor of History at Rutgers University.

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