HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Gilbert King

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author of Devil in the Grove


  • Book Discussion of the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, The Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America
  • Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP, and the Pre-Civil Rights Movement of the 1940s and 1950s
  • A History of Capital Punishment in the American South


New York

After four years of painstaking and meticulous research, Gilbert King published his riveting, nonfiction book Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, The Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (Harper). The book, which sheds light on Thurgood Marshall and his involvement in one of the most dramatic court cases in American history, earned King the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction and has drawn attention to a seminal but largely forgotten civil rights case from the mid twentieth century. In his keynote presentations, King focuses on American history and the important court cases that have shaped our modern understanding of civil rights. He is a frequent speaker at law schools, universities, legal conventions, cultural groups, museums, historical societies, and bar associations across the country.

In Devil in the Gove, King explores Florida's booming orange industry during the year 1949 when citrus barons were getting rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor. When a white seventeen-year-old Groveland girl cried rape, the town sheriff placed the blame on four black men and the Ku Klux Klan was determined to lynch the young men who came to be known as "the Groveland Boys." When Thurgood Marshall entered the deadly fray, his role in the burgeoning civil rights movement was irreplaceable and many colleagues thought his involvement in the "Florida Terror" was suicidal. Throughout the story, King draws on a wealth of never-before-published material, including the FBI's un-redacted Groveland case files, as well as unprecedented access to the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund files.

Nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime and named a 2013 Chautauqua Prize finalist, Devil in the Grove has received widespread praise for its depiction of a case that U.S. Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson called "one of the best examples of one of the worst menaces to American justice." It was also named nonfiction "Book of the Year" by the Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, and Barnes & Noble. King's previous book, The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South, was described by CounterPunch magazine as "almost certainly the best book on capital punishment since [Norman] Mailer's, The Executioner's Song." King has written about Supreme Court history and the death penalty for the New York Times and The Washington Post and is a featured contributor to Smithsonian magazine's history blog. He lives in New York City with his wife and two daughters.

Praise for Devil in the Grove:

-- Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

"This is a haunting and compelling story, one of many in the campaign for racial justice... This book is important because it is disturbing. And in that regard we cannot walk away from the story it tells."
-- Phyllis Vine, author of One Man's Castle

"Gilbert King's gut-wrenching, and captivating, narrative is civil rights literature at its best--meticulously researched, brilliantly written, and singularly focused on equal justice for all."
-- Michael G. Long, author of Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall

"Its rich case history captures the beginning of the end of the most extreme forms of racism... Very few books combine this depth of research and narrative power about a subject of such pivotal significance."
-- Ira Katznelson, author of When Affirmative Action Was White and a former president of the American Political Science Association

"In the terrifying story of the Groveland boys Gilbert King recreates an extraordinary moment in America's long, hard struggle for racial justice. Devil in the Grove is a harrowing, haunting, utterly mesmerizing book."
-- Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age

"Gilbert King has done a remarkable job of weaving together history, sociology, law and detective work of his own, to reveal facts that even I, one of the defense counsel in the case, had not been aware of until now."
-- Jack Greenberg, Alphonse Fletcher Professor of Law at Columbia University, former Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

"A richly detailed chronicle of racial injustice in the Florida town of Groveland in 1949, involving four black men falsely accused of rape and drawing a civil rights crusader, and eventual Supreme Court justice, into the legal battle. "
-- Pulitzer Prize Citation

"A powerful and well-told drama of Southern injustice."
--The Chicago Tribune

"[An] excellent book on a little known and horrifying incident in which four young black men were rounded up and accused of raping a white woman, readers cannot help but be awed by the bravery of those who took a stand in the late 1940s and early 1950s."
-- San Francisco Chronicle

"Devil in the Grove is a compelling look at the case that forged Thurgood Marshall's perception of himself as a crusader for civil rights. . . . King's style [is] at once suspenseful and historically meticulous"
--Christian Science Monitor

"Recreates an important yet overlooked moment in American history with a chilling, atmospheric narrative that reads more like a Southern Gothic novel than a work of history."

Praise for The Execution of Willie Francis:

"A vitally important story. ... If you want to better understand America's troubling legacy of capital punishment, read this book."
-- Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking

"The Execution of Willie Francis is almost certainly the best book on capital punishment in America since Mailer's The Executioner's Song."
-- CounterPunch

"A wrenching, breathtaking true story of murder."
-- Tucson Citizen