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Deep Delta Justice: A Black Teen, His Lawyer, and Their Groundbreaking Battle for Civil Rights in the South (Hardcover)

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The "arresting, astonishing history" of one lawyer and his defendant who together achieved a "civil rights milestone" (Justin Driver).

In 1966 in a small town in Louisiana, a 19-year-old black man named Gary Duncan pulled his car off the road to stop a fight between a group of four white kids and two of Gary's own cousins. After putting his hand on the arm of one of the white children, Duncan was arrested for assault. A member of the local branch of the NAACP, Duncan used his contacts to reach Richard Sobol, a 29-year-old born and bred New Yorker working that summer in a black firm ("the most radical law firm") in New Orleans, to represent him.

In this powerful work of character-driven history that benefits from the author's deep understanding of the law, Van Meter brings alive how one court case changed the course of justice in the South, and eventually the entire country. The events that Gary Duncan set in motion brought to an end a form of injustice -- denial of trial by jury-- that led to the incarceration of thousands of poor and mostly black Americans. Duncan vs. Louisiana changed America, but before it did it changed the lives of the people who litigated it.

About the Author

Matthew Van Meter, raised a Quaker, is a graduate of the M.F.A. nonfiction program at Columbia University, and he's written about criminal justice for the Atlantic, Longreads, and The Awl. Prior to his M.F.A., he wrote about the former Soviet Union for Forbes and Russia, and he was a columnist for Russia Profile. He lives with his wife, a public defender, in Detroit, Michigan.

Praise For…

A Library Journal 2020 Title to Watch
An Observer Best Book of the Spring
One of Publishers Weekly's Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2020

"Excellent debut...readers will be
struck by how many of the issues involved-voter suppression, public funding for
private schools, racial inequalities in the criminal justice system-are still
being legislated today."—Publisher Weekly, starred review

"An examination of a
1966 racial confrontation and its aftermath, which "would help dismantle the
infrastructure of white supremacy that had strangled [a rural Louisiana]
community for centuries". . . Will appeal to admirers of Bryan Stevenson
. . . Timely reading."—Kirkus

"Matthew Van Meter dives into great detail through interviews, research
and a rich knowledge of the law to reveal the society as well as the men
subject to a justice system in need of systemic change."—Observer

"Deep Delta Justice is an uncommonly good true story told
uncommonly well. Based on extensive
reporting and first-rate historical research, it presents an unforgettable
account of a landmark civil rights lawsuit that culminated in a Supreme Court
decision affirming the right to a jury trial in most criminal cases. Van
Meter's narrative, which takes more twists and turns than the Mississippi, is
suspenseful, infuriating, and sometimes funny. This is a wonderful book,
worthy of a permanent place in the literature of the American civil rights
movement."—Patricia O'Toole, The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made and When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt after the White House

"Deep Delta Justice provides the arresting, astonishing history of a racial conflict that began on Louisiana's backroads and resulted in a momentous Supreme Court victory for all Americans. Pairing an investigative journalist's probing research with a novelist's eye for detail, Matthew Van Meter offers the definitive backstory of an all-too-often overlooked civil rights milestone."—Justin Driver, Yale Law School, author of The Schoolhouse Gate

"In the spirit of Melissa Fay Greene's classic Praying
For Sheetrock,
Matthew Van Meter takes readers to one of the most
indelible yet obscure battlegrounds of the Civil Rights Movement and shows how
grassroots heroism can topple even one of segregation's most fearsome

Samuel G. Freedman, Columbia University Professor of Journalism, author of Breaking the Line

"In his vivid new
book Matthew Van Meter takes us into the world of injustice Jim Crow created,
where the smallest of touches could destroy a man's life. From that darkness he
draws an absorbing story of courage, resistance, and the promise of profound
change. Read Deep Delta Justice for the history it recovers - and the
hope it holds for our own dark time."—Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age

Product Details
ISBN: 9780316435031
ISBN-10: 0316435031
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: May 19th, 2020
Pages: 304