Reckoning With Racist ‘Lynch Law’ and Rape Charges, a Century Later

States Like Virginia Are Reexamining Long-Ago Cases on the Path Toward Redress and Redemption

This piece publishes alongside the Zócalo/Mellon Foundation program “How Does Confronting Our History Build a Better Future?” Read a summary of the event and watch the discussion here.

On July 12, 1898 John Henry James’ body, riddled with bullets, hanged from a locust tree. The Virginia man had been in the custody of the Albemarle County sheriff, awaiting grand jury action on a rape allegation, when a mob of 150 people kidnapped and killed him.

James, the story went, sexually assaulted one Julia Hotopp. (I belabor …

When L.A.’s Mayors Were Crooks

The Legendary Owner of Clifton’s Cafeteria Fought to Keep the City Clean

Flipping channels recently one night I landed on the 2012 film Gangster Squad. A vague memory of the pre-release studio trailer played in my head, followed by the thought that …