Author Alex Heard About The Eyes of Willie McGee

In the second installment of the Faculty Workshop Series, sponsored by the Frances Lewis Law Center, author Alex Heard came to speak to the entire school on September 22 about his new book, The Eyes of Willie McGee. Alex Heard is the editorial director of Outside magazine. He has worked as an editor and writer at The New York Times Magazine, Wired, The Washington Post Magazine, The New Republic, Slate, and other publications.

In 1945, Willie McGee, a young black man from Laurel, Mississippi, was sentenced to death for allegedly raping Willette Hawkins, a white housewife. The case became a national cause. During years of courtroom battles and groundbreaking protests, McGee’s supporters—including William Faulkner, Albert Einstein, Jessica Mitford, Paul Robeson, Norman Mailer, and Josephine Baker—spoke out on McGee’s behalf and flooded President Harry S. Truman and the U.S. Supreme Court with clemency pleas. The Eyes of Willie McGee chronicles this important piece of American history.

Relying on exhaustive documentary research—court transcripts, contemporary newspaper reports, archived papers, letters, FBI documents, and other untapped sources—along with the recollections of family members on both sides, Alex Heard, a native of Mississippi, tells a moving and unforgettable story that evokes the bitter conflicts between black and white, North and South in America.

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