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He Calls Me by Lightning: A saga of Jim Crow, southern justice, and the death penalty

  • January 17, 2018

Lear about the case of Caliph Washington, an Alabama man whose case went unknown until written about by Dr. Jonathan Bass. While Washington’s Jim Crow tragedy persisted for decades he eventually beat the system, won his release, and turned terror into triumph.

""Dr. Jonathan Bass will speak at the Hill Student Center's Alumni Theater Wednesday, January 31, from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m., about the case of Caliph Washington, a Bessemer, Alabama, man whose case went unknown until he revealed it. Washington was convicted of capital murder in 1957 for the accidental shooting of a Lipscomb, Alabama, police officer. While his Jim Crow tragedy persisted for decades he eventually beat the system, won his release, and turned terror into triumph. Washington's widow, Christine Washington, will participate in this event. Following his talk, Bass will be available to sign books.

Fairfield, Alabama, native S. Jonathan Bass holds a B.S. and M.A. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. He joined Samford's faculty in 1997. His book Blessed are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the "Letter from Birmingham Jail" was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Dr. Bass's talk is part of the "Telling Difficult Histories" series sponsored by the Rita C. Kimerling Public History Endowment and the UAB Department of History.

Excerpts from Book Reviews:

""He Calls Me By Lightning insists that we face the cost of lives that don’t matter to a persistent racial caste system. It reminds us that human endurance and irrepressible love outlast the glacial pace of change, and proves how much we do not yet know about our history.” — Timothy B. Tyson, New York Times Book Review

“In sharper focus, thanks to Bass’s painstaking research, is a picture of how Jim Crow legal systems operated at the local and state levels.... There is much in He Calls Me By Lightning that we needed to know. There is much, almost too much, that is simply nice to know. But we are left, at the last page, with insight into a history of America that can no longer be left unknown.” — Colbert I. King, Washington Post