Our Town by Cynthia Carr
A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America

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Synopsis

The brutal lynching of two young black men in Marion, Indiana, on August 7, 1930, cast a shadow over the town that still lingers. It is only one event in the long and complicated history of race relations in Marion, a history much ignored and considered by many to be best forgotten. But the lynching cannot be forgotten. It is too much a part of the fabric of Marion, too much ingrained even now in the minds of those who live there. In Our Town journalist Cynthia Carr explores the issues of race, loyalty, and memory in America through the lens of a specific hate crime that occurred in Marion but could have happened anywhere.

Marion is our town, America’s town, and its legacy is our legacy.

Like everyone in Marion, Carr knew the basic details of the lynching even as a child: three black men were arrested for attempted murder and rape, and two of them were hanged in the courthouse square, a fate the third miraculously escaped. Meeting James Cameron–the man who’d survived–led her to examine how the quiet Midwestern town she loved could harbor such dark secrets. Spurred by the realization that, like her, millions of white Americans are intimately connected to this hidden history, Carr began an investigation into the events of that night, racism in Marion, the presence of the Ku Klux Klan–past and present–in Indiana, and her own grandfather’s involvement. She uncovered a pattern of white guilt and indifference, of black anger and fear that are the hallmark of race relations across the country.

In a sweeping narrative that takes her from the angry energy of a white supremacist rally to the peaceful fields of Weaver–once an all-black settlement neighboring Marion–in search of the good and the bad in the story of race in America, Carr returns to her roots to seek out the fascinating people and places that have shaped the town. Her intensely compelling account of the Marion lynching and of her own family’s secrets offers a fresh examination of the complex legacy of whiteness in America. Part mystery, part history, part true crime saga, Our Town is a riveting read that lays bare a raw and little-chronicled facet of our national memory and provides a starting point toward reconciliation with the past.


On August 7, 1930, three black teenagers were dragged from their jail cells in Marion, Indiana, and beaten before a howling mob. Two of them were hanged; by fate the third escaped. A photo taken that night shows the bodies hanging from the tree but focuses on the faces in the crowd—some enraged, some laughing, and some subdued, perhaps already feeling the first pangs of regret.

Sixty-three years later, journalist Cynthia Carr began searching the photo for her grandfather’s face.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Cynthia Carr

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Cynthia Carr was a columnist and arts reporter for the Village Voice from 1984 to 2003. Writing under the byline C. Carr, she specialized in experimental and cutting-edge art, especially performance art. Some of these pieces are now collected in On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century. She is also the author of Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Artforum, Bookforum, Modern Painters, the Drama Review, and other publications. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007. Carr lives in New York.
 
Published March 21, 2006 by Crown. 512 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Our Town

Kirkus Reviews

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An infamous photograph of a 1930 lynching in Marion, Ind., sends the author on a decade-long search for its story and for the role her grandfather might have played.

| Read Full Review of Our Town: A Heartland Lynchin...

The New York Times

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Cynthia Carr questions whether her grandfather was involved in a lynching.

Apr 02 2006 | Read Full Review of Our Town: A Heartland Lynchin...

Publishers Weekly

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Carr's discovery that her beloved grandfather belonged to the Ku Klux Klan and may have been involved in the hate crime leads her to return to Marion and ask questions that many on both sides of the racial divide find uncomfortable.

Oct 03 2005 | Read Full Review of Our Town: A Heartland Lynchin...

Book Reporter

Cynthia Carr is a journalist who found herself caught up in her own story.

Jan 14 2011 | Read Full Review of Our Town: A Heartland Lynchin...

Entertainment Weekly

Originally posted Mar 17, 2006 Published in issue #869 Mar 24, 2006 Order article reprints

Mar 17 2006 | Read Full Review of Our Town: A Heartland Lynchin...

Daily Kos

My then 17-year old girlfriend, now my wife of 25+ years, called her parents - who knew me - and explained that she was going to be spending the night waking me up.

Jan 03 2011 | Read Full Review of Our Town: A Heartland Lynchin...

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