Summer Reading: “Closed Ranks”

Though you may not know his name, Bernard Whitehurst, Jr. was killed by a police officer in Montgomery, Alabama in December 1975. Whitehurst was black, the officer who shot him was white, and his death occurred during a search for a robbery suspect that resulted in a chase. Whitehurst was walking in the area, was mistaken for a suspect, and was then pursued. After being shot as he tried to climb a fence, he died among weeds and trash in the backyard of an abandoned house as the sun set in the late afternoon.

His family has been seeking justice ever since. Sadly, the Whitehurst Case was left unresolved. No officers were charged with his killing. The family’s 1976 civil lawsuit failed in federal court, and the appeal was denied. One city councilman’s resolution to make a financial settlement with the family was tabled indefinitely. Though the controversy over Whitehurst’s death did result in firings or resignations of police officers, the public safety director, and the mayor, an April 1977 special election brought Montgomery a new mayor, whose position on the Whitehurst Case was to move on. It has been forty-four years since that special election, and more than forty-five year since his killing.

As our country grapples with these issues of race and policing, I want to invite everyone to learn more about the Whitehurst Case by choosing Closed Ranks as one of your summer reading books this year. Then, join me, eldest son Stacy Whitehurst, and other Whitehurst family members for a talkback on Sunday, July 25 on Facebook Live. We will talk about the Whitehurst Case and its long-term legacy, then take questions from the audience.

Closed Ranks was published by NewSouth Books and is widely available

Links, times, and further information about the Facebook Live event will be posted on my author page on Facebook

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