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Hate Crime: The Story of a Dragging in Jasper, Texas

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On June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr., a forty-nine-year-old black man, was walking home from a party when three white men in a pickup truck offered him a ride. They drove Byrd out to a lonely country road, tied him to a logging chain, and dragged him three miles to his death. Joyce King, an award-winning journalist and native Texan, was assigned to cover the story, which drew in On June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr., a forty-nine-year-old black man, was walking home from a party when three white men in a pickup truck offered him a ride. They drove Byrd out to a lonely country road, tied him to a logging chain, and dragged him three miles to his death. Joyce King, an award-winning journalist and native Texan, was assigned to cover the story, which drew international media headlines. In Hate Crime, she provides a chilling re-creation of the slaying and the subsequent trials. But she also moves beyond the details of the case to provide insight into the minds of the murderers, and to investigate the Texas prison system in which they developed their virulent racism. King also explores how the town of Jasper, Texas, endured a tragedy that threatened to divide its residents. A first-rate work of reportage, Hate Crime is also a searing look at how race continues to shape life in America.


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On June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr., a forty-nine-year-old black man, was walking home from a party when three white men in a pickup truck offered him a ride. They drove Byrd out to a lonely country road, tied him to a logging chain, and dragged him three miles to his death. Joyce King, an award-winning journalist and native Texan, was assigned to cover the story, which drew in On June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr., a forty-nine-year-old black man, was walking home from a party when three white men in a pickup truck offered him a ride. They drove Byrd out to a lonely country road, tied him to a logging chain, and dragged him three miles to his death. Joyce King, an award-winning journalist and native Texan, was assigned to cover the story, which drew international media headlines. In Hate Crime, she provides a chilling re-creation of the slaying and the subsequent trials. But she also moves beyond the details of the case to provide insight into the minds of the murderers, and to investigate the Texas prison system in which they developed their virulent racism. King also explores how the town of Jasper, Texas, endured a tragedy that threatened to divide its residents. A first-rate work of reportage, Hate Crime is also a searing look at how race continues to shape life in America.

30 review for Hate Crime: The Story of a Dragging in Jasper, Texas

  1. 5 out of 5

    Whit

    HATE CRIME presents a story so unthinkable that you have to really dissect what it means to be a human being. In 1998 I was 9 years old. I was in elementary school. I spent my Saturday mornings watching cartoons on my grandparent's couch with a nice bowl of cereal. I spent my days playing with Barbie's and reading the Baby Sitter's Club. I had ABSOLUTELY no care in the world at that time. This very year the lives of 4 men changed in a drastic way. Living in Texas I was aware of the cowardly crime HATE CRIME presents a story so unthinkable that you have to really dissect what it means to be a human being. In 1998 I was 9 years old. I was in elementary school. I spent my Saturday mornings watching cartoons on my grandparent's couch with a nice bowl of cereal. I spent my days playing with Barbie's and reading the Baby Sitter's Club. I had ABSOLUTELY no care in the world at that time. This very year the lives of 4 men changed in a drastic way. Living in Texas I was aware of the cowardly crime that took place one night in the city of Jasper. 5 hours away from Dallas this tragedy that fell upon the state was felt by everyone. I remember waking up and the story being played repeatedly on the news. Mr. James Byrd Jr. was kidnapped, beaten, and dragged behind a pickup truck on the night of June 7, 1998. He was spray painted black, lost his toes, elbows, and knees during the dragging and disturbing news came out that he was actually alive during most of it. The "relief" of death came when his body hit a culvert and decapitated him. He was 49 years old. Joyce King worked for CBS and was tasked with covering the trials of John William King, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and Shawn Allen Berry, the 3 men responsible for murdering Mr. Byrd. She came with true facts and documented each trial with precision and tact. She presented Mr. Byrd's story, how he ended up in the back of Berry's pickup truck and what transpired before the dragging. She documented how King and Brewer met in prison and became apart of a racist organization which led them to hate Blacks and Jews. She also documented how Berry was actually friends with Mr. Byrd despite standing by and watching the tragedy unfold (and driving the truck). She remained a reporter and presented facts which are not that common in 2019 since "alternative facts" are the norm now. Mr. Byrd did not deserve the fate he was given and I pray his soul is at peace. I also lift his family up in prayer considering they have had to go through 3 trials and sit through 2 executions. They are a very strong family and may God bless them.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    I do believe that people are a result of the environment in which they grew up in, and this is another example of that fact. It is also evidence that prisons breed racism to it's highest levels. This is a true story about what happens to a black man simply because he was black, although the book is much more about how hateful people can be and the need to have someone beneath them to insult, harm and kill. There is so much talk on tv today about bullying, and that is what this is at it highest l I do believe that people are a result of the environment in which they grew up in, and this is another example of that fact. It is also evidence that prisons breed racism to it's highest levels. This is a true story about what happens to a black man simply because he was black, although the book is much more about how hateful people can be and the need to have someone beneath them to insult, harm and kill. There is so much talk on tv today about bullying, and that is what this is at it highest level. I know it is corny to say why can't we all just get along, but I so wish we could do just that. It is also a story, a true story, about how a person who is not a racist, can get wrapped up in this hideous crime by associating with people who are racists, so be careful who you associate with. This book is very well written and although some parts of it are very raw, it is well organized and easy to read. Perhaps this would make a good book for high-school students to read, for I would hope it would make them think about what they think about other races and who they associate with. It could and should be an eye-opener to all people but especially to young people, to re-evaluate their beliefs.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Atar

    I remember being just out of high school a couple years when the story of a black man being dragged to his death in Jasper, Texas was all over the news. Even as a teen I knew this event was different. As a young man I’d experienced racism a few times, so hearing what happened to this man walking home, terrified me. Although I lived in an area of the country that does not generally harbor the same problems concerning race as most everywhere else, there are still individuals that that espouse hate I remember being just out of high school a couple years when the story of a black man being dragged to his death in Jasper, Texas was all over the news. Even as a teen I knew this event was different. As a young man I’d experienced racism a few times, so hearing what happened to this man walking home, terrified me. Although I lived in an area of the country that does not generally harbor the same problems concerning race as most everywhere else, there are still individuals that that espouse hateful ideologies. These events had me concerned that something like this could happen to me. Eventually, time passed and I worried less about other people’s I’ll will. I moved on. 21 years later I find myself reading Hate Crime by Joyce King about James Byrd Jr and his brutal death. No more do I feel scared but, instead anger and sadness after reading about the full account of what happened to this man. In gory detail the author brings to forefront the last day of James’s life and the 3 men charged and convicted of capital murder. The court cases, the families, lawyers, and the media all played a pivotal role in this disheartening drama. This book is an easy read but be warned parts of it are gruesome. Having said that I would still recommend this book to all. Understanding hatred and bigotry can and should be done through the sharing of stories, personal experiences, reading books like this.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Abbey

    POPSUGAR 2020: a book by or about a journalist I remember when this happened. James Byrd, Jr. was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to death in Jasper TX a few days before my 19th birthday about 150 miles away from my hometown. In this book, I learned that the trial of one of the killers was relocated out of Jasper to my hometown. Last year, the second of the two men sentenced to death (the third man is imprisoned for life) was executed. While reading this book, and after reading a few books POPSUGAR 2020: a book by or about a journalist I remember when this happened. James Byrd, Jr. was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to death in Jasper TX a few days before my 19th birthday about 150 miles away from my hometown. In this book, I learned that the trial of one of the killers was relocated out of Jasper to my hometown. Last year, the second of the two men sentenced to death (the third man is imprisoned for life) was executed. While reading this book, and after reading a few books by journalists this year, King's journalistic style really came through, and I truly found that valuable to the narrative. Her style is very clean and concise, without a lot of personal commentary. She does talk about how she feels when she's on the road where Byrd was murdered, how the crime scene photos haunted her nightmares, how the trials made her continually more and more ill, to the point where she was vomiting in the courthouse daily and her hair started to fall out. King begins to touch on the idea of where the hate of the killers originated. Her investigations take her to the men's histories in prison, and then the history of the prison system in Texas. She begins to dismantle the racism and race-influenced violence in our prisons, and asks a lot of questions. Exactly four months after James Byrd, Jr was dismembered while being dragged by a three young men in a pickup truck in Jasper, Matthew Shepard was beaten and tortured and tied to a fence in Laramie, WY. James was murdered because he was Black, Matthew because he was gay, and their names became forever linked eleven years later, when Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Heather Munao

    Hate Crime does this awful case justice in terms of reporting. I learned about the magnitude of the crime and a lot about the backgrounds of the murderers, as well as the Texas prison system. The trial was covered in-depth in a way that helped you understand the arguments made, the defensive strategy, and what such an awful trial really looks like in progress. I do have some criticisms. First, whenever the author described human emotion/reaction, the writing came out a bit sentimental or trite. Hate Crime does this awful case justice in terms of reporting. I learned about the magnitude of the crime and a lot about the backgrounds of the murderers, as well as the Texas prison system. The trial was covered in-depth in a way that helped you understand the arguments made, the defensive strategy, and what such an awful trial really looks like in progress. I do have some criticisms. First, whenever the author described human emotion/reaction, the writing came out a bit sentimental or trite. My other criticism is that I think there should have been some discussion of lynching in Texas for comparison as well as discussion of hate crime law (I mean, the book is literally called hate crime). However, I do think King did a worthy job telling James Byrd Jr.’s awful, powerful story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    I sought this book out because I wanted to get a deeper look in to an event that I remembered from my childhood where I grew up in southeast Texas. The author did a great job of bringing the reader right in to the rural town of Jasper and unpacking the characters and their backgrounds. I learned many things I didn’t already know about this case.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Heather Frame

    This was an interesting book. My dad was a lead investigator on this case and he is mentioned a few times in the book so I’ve had a first hand account about some of the details of this case. However, this book brought a new perspective and I appreciated the authors approach.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Personal experience of a modern racial lynching Much more than just the facts of the horrifically brutal murder of James Byrd Jr., sadistic & savage torture & the evil that remorselessly were entertained by killing a man only because he was Black.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Roxie Lacey

    Well written report of the impact this crime made on Jasper Texas, it’s citizens and those who participated in the trials.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Susan Hess

    This book is one that makes you hate humanity and then love humanity. Very well written.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Powerful subject but I was underwhelmed by the book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bianca

    Racism in its most obvious and disgusting form

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marcia

    one of the saddest stories ever...this one stayed with me...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Luis Gracias

  15. 5 out of 5

    Viridiana Navarro

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Golden

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kari

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tammi

  19. 5 out of 5

    Melyssa

    Beautifully-crafted story of a very ugly crime in Jasper, Texas.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gomez

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tobi Cavazos

  22. 4 out of 5

    Corabella

  23. 4 out of 5

    Angela

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  25. 5 out of 5

    Romy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mehdi

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kimber

  30. 5 out of 5

    Karla

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