tv Panel Discussion on Violent Crime in 19th Century America CSPAN May 8, 2016 7:00am-8:01am EDT
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon. we are all sad. i am rubber provided i am robert brevard i am rubber provided with the reverend reporter pete thank you for coming today. those in the back pews might make about coming up here a little bit closer to his wonderful authors that are with us. our panel today is called shadow country. race and country. race and crime 19th century america. it will be part of the san antonio book festival broadcast april 30th on c-span2 if you want to see some of the programs that you missed because you're in here or because we do such a good job you just have to go
watch it a second time in here everybody twice paid me to traffic authors to texas with us. to my left is my long time, long ago young reporter colleague at the dallas time herald, skip hollandsworth was the executive editor of texas monthly, the national magazine award winner who's written some of the greatest true crime over the last 10 or 15 years and it's got some more here for us. his book is "the midnight assassin." he will be signing up right after the presentation and we didn't even know if these folks are going to be here by today. but in fact, the hardcover came a few days ago. all he had was the galley. and so skips both takes place in austin will talk a little bit about that in a minute. dr. kali nicole gross is associate professor of african and african diaspora. studies at the university of texas in austin, but he has made
a career out of crime in philadelphia and this is her second book, which was set in philadelphia. both of these authors have come across remarkable true crime stories that none of us know anything about oregon completely lost in the public memory. skaggs is arguably about the very first serial killer average to be documented in the united states and for those of you who have read eric larson's coming double in the white city about chicago and we all thought that must've been the first serial killer. but this occurs in 1885, even earlier in austin. two years later in philadelphia, 1400 miles away is "hannah mary tabbs and disembodied torso." these books are both nasty comment that things that have been paid since we didn't know any of the people, we can assure our thrillers because that is what true crime is about. we all do charade about terrible
things happening to people we don't know. [laughter] the microphone is not out there, but i'll just ask a trivia question to get us started. what were their respective populations is often in philadelphia in 1980? that would be the closest sentenced to 1885 in austin and kali 1887 in philadelphia. anyone want to hazard a guess about these two cities? [inaudible] >> which one? [inaudible] >> austin had 14,000. does that help you at philadelphia a little bit? philadelphia had more than a million people. it has a million .5 today. that gives a little bit of an understanding of the country we live in back then, the northeast cities at the time in philadelphia was kind of the city that it is today in terms
of it being a big metropolis. those are two very different settings, but both of these books as he will guess start out with something very bad happening to somebody. and with that, i'm going to stop and ask you to set the scene for the crime in austin in 1885. it is for five minutes of overview of what you are what you are 49 and then we'll have you do the same thing in philadelphia. >> in 1885, austin was transforming itself from this frontier era town into an actual gilded age city. electric lights were arriving. telephones were arriving. the driscoll hotel is getting built with flush toilets on the third floor, which has never been before seen west of the mississippi. the economy was booming to the state legislature decided to build a new state capital. the architecture order to make it 30 feet taller than the u.s. capitol. already the phrase everything is
bigger in texas was working in 1885. the university of texas had just opened the year before and it had a whopping never before imagined 230 students attending being taught by seven chin whisker professors who have been recruited away from universituniversit ies like the university of virginia for $4000 a year and even the state lunatic asylum was being refurbished. it's now the austin state hospital. on the same people in texas were brought here to the unitech asylum 550 people where they are in the new superintendent made the pass card in this industry because the medical journalist at the time said curving paths lead to sanity. anybody could get in. women were brought in for too much flow and women running for too little flow. men were brought in for
violations of. that lead to insanity. here was a city emerging into this kind of golden era as the mayor kept telling everybody in every speech. on december 30th, actually on new year's day, 1885, there was a headline in the newspaper called bloody work. a young, black servant woman who lived in a little service quarters behind the house in almost every upper middle-class middle class and wealthy home in austin had served in corridors have been found out by the back outhouse and after an ask the winner had, knife, cut up into pieces so many other taker lifted her up, her body fell apart. and thus began the story. >> we are ahead of schedule. we will come back to that body and more than that.
kali, what is at the same in philadelphia. >> i'm going to paths they would not try to go into academic egghead speech. skip is a tough act to follow, but i will do my best. my crime takes place in philadelphia in 1887 and it starts when a headless, memos, racially ambiguous choice was discovered in a pond just outside the city. philadelphia at this time as robert introduced us to his already a fairly large city but undergone a number of substantial demographic changes. for example, the black population in philadelphia almost doubled. because some 20,000 to 40,000. the population of italian immigrants go through 300 to 18,000. you have an influx of newly freed black folks in the city at the same time you have a lot of white european immigrants coming from abroad.
but they're not really certain if these folks are away just yet. so when the irish immigrants, and some of the italian immigrants, eastern european jewish sure where they fit in. so the torso itself is disturbing. they know this much. but they can't discern his race. they don't know. this is a white man who has been killed? this would take a huge priority. is it a spaniard? is it a mulatto? some people suggested it may be of hebraic origin. there is the sole this story a about what to do when it paralyzes the investigation initially because even the philadelphia has a reputation for being a city of rather the end abolitionists, it's true. there you go. guilty as charged. but it also is profoundly and
deeply divided by race and ethnic differences. the investigators are uncertain which world to even search. the project to discern his face becomes of paramount importance for a bunch of reasons. >> well, let me say it's impossible to read both of these books without propelling yourself voted the 21st century and constantly in the back of your mind thinking about law enforcement with african american people and black people and how race and class still divide the country in terms of our approach to crime in london for his. let's go back to those late 19th century years. how does law enforcement agents to react to the news of a black murderer? skip, do you want to go first? >> well, obviously the austin cops immediately look for a black suspect.
we were only 20 years removed from the civil war. austin is still very much a confederate state like it was. and there is this theory that what is going on that young black men because they've not experienced from internalizing benefits of slavery had a tendency to deconstruct and returned to their quote proverbial state. so this is exactly what the police believe that happen in the case of the first murder. an ex-boyfriend who was upset that molly had moved on to another man decided to take it only in the way that a black man would do it, that this would only be a crime committed by a savage man and he was a savage crime. when the second murder happened a few months later, a young black servant woman was found that there had shopped and then wrapped in blankets and cut to pieces the iron peg driven
through her dear. again, the theory was that had to be another black lover who got the idea from the first lover, so let's arrest this guy in a arrested in italy spare for a black man who was considered to be a lover of the second woman and had failed and tried to get money from her. he was obviously clearly the culprit. this one on time and time again. there is no such thing in our area that we are writing about as csi units. there are no behavioral scientists working through killing cases out of quantico. you could distinguish between blood between humans and animals but there is no blood typing. there iso fiber evidence. but the cops had ripped bloodhounds that try to sniff her sound and chase whatever sent they could find but the
bloodhounds could find nothing. without any eyewitness -- any eyewitness to say that the killer was, and all they had to go with was there sort of already determined the leaf. if we just keep the rest in them, surely one of them will come fast. >> kali, your corpses found neatly wrapped with a little handwritten sign on it that says handle with care. and it's actually not found in philadelphia. it is found in bucks county, which even now is rural but back then was a farmer or carpenter sounded inside the handle with care and opened it up and was horrified. have you bring that back into philadelphia? >> okay, so as i said, there is this quandary about how to figure out who the humans, let alone the culprit to really
discern this guy's race. they actually bring in the coroner's position to do a series of tests to figure out the race and he does on some chemical tests and also microscopic tests. based on his examination, he believes that the corpse belongs to someone who is three fourths. and so even though he was certain, this is his moment where science is still not really trusted by investigators. it is not a csi moment. the police chief coming in now, in the states attorney look at him and they are like no, we don't buy this. they actually call in our black people from the community to come and compare their skin with that of the torso. shockingly, when this doesn't yield a result, they asked the women out right, you know, you are black. is this a black man? one of the women says white
folks and colored folks look so much alike nowadays it's hard to tell the difference. and that's the crux of this year for them. but to make a long story short it's probably too late for that. the news of this sort of torso makes it into the newspaper and the vapid paper is described to handle with care, but also wrapped in a piece of calico. there is a conductor who remembers a black woman on the train the same evening, carrying two packages that matched the description. then they say now we have an actual definitive proof this probably is the body of a colored man. so this sort of get them onto philadelphia because she took this train from philadelphia to bucks county. >> this is a good time to pause and ask what prompted both of you to take on 100-year-old murder case is and how do you
reconstruct those? even in the age of google search, skip, did you? >> there was nothing to google. you can google old 19th century newspapers that are on microfilm or at the briscoe center for american studies. you basically hire researchers to look for stuff with you. and you sit in front of a microfilm machine day after day, going through these 19th century newspapers or the apprentice even smaller than texas monthly prentice today. and just hope you come across a story. i am haunted by what i missed in the newspaper. you never know which page the news would be on. just some long notes columns are not the bottom would be one sentence about someone getting
arrested. the reason i'm scared about even doing this fashion is because i'm afraid one of you is about to stand up and go if you have just looked at this library, the killer is right here. [laughter] so it's just needle in the haystack stuff. it is old-fashioned research of which i was totally unprepared for because i'm a journalist. i'm used to calling up the folks who are alive, not dead by sensory. >> sunday nostra creature interest here and i was reading about another serial killer. >> jack. >> right, jack. i first heard about this in a schoolteacher not this totally made that jack the ripper came from austin. i said where the data comes from? she said there is -- she showed me this report that had been made in a quickie pamphlet being
printed during the 1880 whitechapel killings as scotland yard's expected the killer could have come from a small city in texas for a series of similar murders had occurred three years earlier. i went to murders? that's what drove me to start looking for the real-life version of the story. >> that's how reporters really get on stories. transcendent, how did you get on yours? i know you went to philadelphia this is not the first book about philadelphia crime. your first was about black crime victims, african-american big guns in the early 20th century. is that we heard about this? >> oyster and research for my first book in philadelphia because this is where the penitentiary system is boring. i was looking out the records for eastern state penitentiary, sort of the premier confinement facility. i don't know if any folks have been philadelphia. you have. you have to.
you've been at the prison. [inaudible] [laughter] >> sure you didn't. it's a massive portrait, a model built on the stand up to cut it at any rate, i was going through the archives and this is one of the painstaking work permit. the administrators actually maintain scrapbook in this sort of newspaper clippings of their more sort of famous or infamous inmates. when i was going through the scrapbook that i came across this case, i see these headlines, you know, disembodied trunk and torso. this is sort of love at first sight for me. i don't know if that kind of thing you want to confess to a ro full of folks that you don't know, but it is. once i found out they were black folks involved in the black
woman at the heart of the story, i said wait a minute, this is not the history of mr. encountering. freddie mac, i just did not put it down. newspaper clippings give me names and dates and had their inmate master numbers and then i could look them up in their prison record and that gave me a little bit of background. and then i just started work to census data. in some respects when i started researching the project, this sort of built of visitors today. a moment during the research were some of our process shifted, where i was able to use some of that data materials like bramante street.com. painstakingly put it together, re-throw the coverage and i went through and found those of indictment that the city archive, but i also got on some random goose chases, she appeared the woman at the center of the story, panda mary taps kind of lied about her origin
and use different aliases. at one point i spent all this time at a research fellowship at virginia looking for was because that's where she said she was from and then i learned she was actually from maryland. so that change and sent me back a little bit. so i had to go to the maryland state archives in annapolis and it through there. slowly but surely this needle in a haystack found her marriage certificate, had a better idea about her age and the name she was going by. at that time, or has been has served a part of the colored troops during the civil war. i was able to find his record as well as the widow pension file that she applied for and not have a lot of information. just go in everywhere, this is sort of exciting for me. book enough to microfilm in the archive. this had me going far and wide,
up and down the minute you take. >> you have mentioned hannah mary tabbs. how did the police cannot tour? >> you or do you know she's a bit of a slippery character. the connector gives them the sort of description of black women and they are able to trace your steps from when she gets off this train and turns out she stopped at a number of houses. it becomes clear at some point she worked as a servant from one of the folks in the area. her name starts to circulate in the newspaper. she actually goes to the talent and gives an interview at the same time the authorities are looking for her. that the same same time it's happening, the victim's sister, when she sees hannah mary tabbs' name in the paper, she goes to
the chief of gtech is in philadelphia because she's terrified that torso might actually belonged to her brother, the young man who seemed to be having an extramarital affair with hannah mary tabbs. these elements converge in a finite apprehend her when she's returning back on the train to philadelphia. >> so we are now up to a couple murders. there's more coming, but the police are looking to point fingers at people. at people. i think were reluctant detonated rest of the second one and not the first one. how are they treating their respect to the investigations and suspects? are they just trying to close cases of people because of pentagon's are they genuinely sane african-american crime victims in 1885 boston deserves justice and they are trying to get to the bottom of it? >> well, there was still just the same that is hard for us to understand is that never
occurred to the police and private investigators who were later hired by one man would be responsible for all of this. the concept of a serial killer did not exist in 1885. they're is serial killers, maniacs who would go on psychotic killing sprees and the outlaws still in the last. the greatest one of all shot like 40 people. he was very open about who we shot and for what reason. they owed him money or he wanted their money or had a gambling problem and they said they deserved to die. but there have never been the concept of a man sneaking out of his home or his almost hideous motives to want to ritualistically slaughter one woman after another come away for a period of them come back in to it again and leave their bodies felt like a work of art and then disappear. so the police were constantly under the assumption that there
had to be some black ultimate. at one point as the murders continued, people began to come up with a theory that a black was on the loose in austin. it was just one person, but a group of like men trying to wreak on the city for reasons of their own. >> i think that is an important snapshot of the culture to capture in such a small city is the element of fear, people filling the vacuum with what they think is probably going on and who might be next in what could happen to them. >> yeah, there were calls for the chance, calls for marches through the black neighborhoods. there were calls to clean up the city of any black man who had committed a crime and none of this -- i'm sure it happened and wasn't getting reported in the papers and then came christmas eve, which was exactly one month
or almost exactly one year after the first murder in the whole story changed with two prominent white women who are similarly slaughtered within the space of an hour in two different parts of austin. that is when the panic really hate because this is all considered to be just a matter of until christmas eve. suddenly everybody's world changed. >> that's probably a good time to introduce the subject of sex and the role that it played each investigation or at least in the eyes of law enforcement and the role their relationships might have had. first they've got their eye on him. she's the guilty party. she points a finger at someone else. >> she does. once hannah mary tabbs is arrested and apprehended, i should talk about a little bit of police police in
philadelphia. >> at this moment right now? >> at this historical moment. in the late 19th century, violence is considered a completely acceptable part of policing. in many respects as is racial profiling. you actually have manuals then instruct philadelphia police officers to search and detain anyone who is poor or the connected comp from outside of the state. you can imagine the variety of constituencies as they were perilous positions. so when hannah mary tabbs is in custody, she is kept in a cell of the chief of detectives thought despite her self and interrogated for a period of time. for she maintains the idea she doesn't know anything about the case, doesn't know an event ends. she is kept in custody overnight and in the next day, she's sort of is reported as having a very pronounced blackeye. her coat is torn and she makes a
confession. it is at that time that she basically says, you know, this young man, george wilson and another young man got into an argument in my house and he committed this horrible crime and basically he forced me to help him destroy this evidence. and so, the issue about her testimony is problematic because on one hand, she herself was a pretty dubious carrots there, but there were a lot of account of what ministries and especially in custody and being vulnerable to certain things, particularly sexual assault. their accounts of other black women who said they were interrogated by folks wearing masks, but even though their faces were covered, their eyes weren't and they were looking her all over. another instance there's a white woman has actually arrested on a
prostitution charge, who in her memoir testified she submitted to these advances of the guard in order to escape herself. to be sorted in prison at this time, it is dangerous and dubious, but for obvious reasons. when she mixes compassion, they go in to george will said and george wilson to use the term mulatto at this time. he's the sum of all fears because he is one of these folks that can actually pass for white. in spite of sort of the evidence of her having a romantic affair with the big and a number of other sort of salacious details that emerge, they sort of lock on to hand has been infinitely more suspicious because the does moment where folks are worried about being able traded. if he can pass for white, he can infiltrate the white race in some way. i didn't get us onto the not
used the way i thought it would. but i'll come back. >> i'll come back around to it. >> i'll bring us back. [laughter] >> what happens in austin is they start to look at people who know the way theater of the tunes. >> seven women are murdered and reporters are finally beginning to write that it might be one person can and may be a lunatic escaping from the asylum, turns into a werewolf. even one reporter says it could be frankenstein had returned. if they were trying to grapple with the idea that is one kind of a maniac of midnight assassin was at work in the reporter came down from just two letters paper to write about the killings.
he said this is a different kind of killer than we've ever seen before in civilization. someone who kills out of a need to gratify his desire. we've never seen it before. it was a really pressing a piece of reporting. well, the city leaders did not want to read this kind of reporting. they didn't want to be known as the stomping ground for a midnight assassin who was uncatchable. so they came up with this idea that the two white husbands had murdered their wives because one of whom was going to leave -- the first wife is going to leave her husband. the second wife was slipping off it had been discovered she was the young socialite who was unhappily married and there was nothing -- very few divorces give them. she was slipping off to up is called a of vaccination on congress and third street. were a woman -- and in cape verde would rent out rooms for the hour to wealthy austin men who wanted to have affairs with their women issue is meeting
someone there. the second husband killed her because according to the authorities because he had found out she was sneaking around on him. then came the river a pleasant has been doing it, it was the leading candidate for governor who was meeting her in his spaniel all never depended. his name was william swing, the giant man with the most popular politician in texas at the time. he was a state comptroller running for governor. his opponent was this little weasley ex-confederate warrior who is definitely losing in the newspaper poll. get a very rightly campaign manager and began to perhaps -- there's not quite the evidence to say definitely, began her story that was william swain who was at the young socialite a house on christmas eve and he's the one that killed her. the story stack and became governor of texas.
>> is there any truth to it? >> here's the problem i have. because you can't completely disproved the story or prove that, you have to sort of way that hanging like a curveball. >> good to write about it, though. >> what happened to all of this black suspects we have forgotten about. we had some advice early on. now that the police have turned their attention elsewhere and they are trying defensively to suggest there is not a serial killer, what about the people they rounded up there's any number of suspects with earpiece he of suspects with earpiece he meant they would've asked interrogate and peered ahead for us that they use, chain into an iron chain in the middle of the floor which was what was called the jail back then and they
would let them go in when they would be another murder, they would rearrest them all. i don't know why these guys didn't get out of town. [laughter] but eventually they hired private detect is to begin to invent evidence. one of which was a black chicken thief who is sort of one of the beloved characters in town that he would steal chickens from the way people give them to the poor black neighbors all over town and he was arrested. he was eventually convicted of charges of burglary and so on and sent off to the penitentiary. and he escaped and became even a bigger hero to the black community. i didn't write enough about that in the book as i tell this story and i feel kind of doubt about it. >> he talked about joseph pulitzer's sending a reporter down for a good murder story. there were rewards being offered
of course, so that would attract private detectives who at a man on the train and needed the police are pretty much inefficient and they were going to solve it themselves and collect money. >> there were guys who dress up businesses. in fact, the mayor sent a letter to the paper 10 agency, which is the greatest detective agency in the country then. the letter but diverted to a different agency that existed in chicago. the paper 10 national detective agency and then came a group of detect this with absolutely no idea what they were doing. so you are going through these newspapers thinking this is a dark story. here comes this bit of comedy to lighten up the case. it was just a lot that such a thing could have happened. >> meanwhile philadelphia, are we moving towards a trial here?
>> we are moving towards a trial and george basically also has a pretty rough time in police custody. certainly beaten and coerced into making a confession. but the trial initially stymied as they figure out who is the primary sort of killer in this case. meanwhile, hannah mary tabbs' really good at playing why people and afraid to wed authority at this time. she does not look white people in the eye. she kind of turns on the southern accent on the period and there's been this -- a boy philadelphians think and they know how to do it like people. in some respects she becomes a smart trustworthy but% and they
recognize her they recognize her. she's too married to wed authority whereas wilson is the sort of northern with the audacity to look white. so he becomes a suspicious dirt in spite of the fact even know she puts on the persona, but people in the community break ring and cooperate in mass with this investigation and offer all sorts of testimony about her various crimes within that community. so it turns out she was one of these for who is the neighborhood terror what the do kill people, have done bodily harm. they also don't know what to make of the fact that the big dems personal items are found in the home that she shares with her has been. so there's some dirt about what all is going on there. there have inserted a difficult a difficult time figuring out who to go with.
what course are disinterested or that ms. wilson had a background but also sort of criminalized in it not only is he the son of all spheres in this racial phenotype of that but also he has rented the house of refuge, which is like a home for wayward youth. he's placed there because his mother died when he was very job. it's sort of serves as this way he's criminalized and then adding insult to injury he had experienced because he had worked under spot her house before. so he's probably the one who did this dismembering. he probably did do this kind. you have going on trial for murder and she is charged -- she is so debuted as his accessory to the crime after the fact. >> you know, his light skin because his unknown father was white. did he get different treatment as a mixed race person in the late 19th century philadelphia
than a woman who's clearly black? >> in many respects, most folks who are like complexion or who had been deemed as a lot of them a lot of it's used in a lot of ways. it is used to describe someone who has a parent who's black and white and they also use it as a way to describe someone's come election than this sort of thing. historically they did tend to have started better access to education, better kinds of jobs. and certainly because of their proximity to whiteness in some respects could be viewed favorably. at this particular historical moment, it works against him become he becomes a suspect of real position. the fears about infiltration, the whole language at these sort of anti-miscegenation is born or in this moment. and they inserted a crated
biologically. and either fall blacks or four wide. so he existed and is also just not savvy in the same way she is a there's a rainy may also be a little bit low, you sort of fascinated by the notoriety of the case. and even african-american adventures. this is not the case. there is coverage on this case from philadelphia to missouri, "new york times" had written about it. he himself impressed and not in a variety and worked against him because they feared that it became unrepentant. >> the web made it such a new story of the day.
it was an opportunity to that of female careful about the worst characteristics of a batman. >> a word except for the fact she had been playing them really well. i definitely think the extramarital affair, the fact there is some sort of hint that they had some open arrangement going on. that the 19th century readers for sure. and most of the gruesome nature of the crime and all the salacious ins and outs that are involved as a black woman certain excitable, but at this time. among most people consider black men to be of low character. it wouldn't necessarily be a shock that they would be of ultimate violent crime. that was certainly the stereotype of the rhetoric of that time. but i think it's a combination of event, you know, the two of
them together at this odd sort of image of who actually killed this man. i think it just came something they were fascinated by. >> imac giving anything away by telling the outcomes of the readers in terms of the justice system. >> you will. >> let me ask you this. do you agree with history in terms of how they apportioned blame and punishment? >> no, no i don't. for someone who has studied black women's experiences in the criminal just as the sun, i am pretty amazed at the way "hannah mary tabbs and the disembodied torso: a tale of race, sex, and violence in america" was able to manipulate the judge in the cherry. most black women in philadelphia were convicted at a higher rate than any other constituency. the early part of the 19th century, 72% of black women go before judges in philadelphia and québec did.
the idea that she would be sort of recognize as a one-man anything remotely considered as potentially not having been a primary murderer and this was in and of itself a feed that i was sort of amazed she was able to accomplish. >> skip, how about you and how you view history in boston. we at how many dead people now? southern woman and a man. did you start to believe yourself that these aren't all killed by the same person in some of them have nothing at all to do with the other? >> yeah, of course i did. i kept thinking surely someone has to know in this town 14,000 to 17,000 people. surely someone has to know who the killer is. you know, a renault for another century later when i century later the nicer working in the
case case, i would surely i'm going to figure out. skip hollandsworth saw the crime. at least eight years researching people's lives, looking for some arrest record, some story with some letter, someone that would give it all up. >> if you haven't read the book, it anyone's guess whether skip solved the crime or not. i'm going to leave that to those of you who get it signed later. advance before you go into a question-and-answer period with 15 minutes left, use figures on this book literally. there is the years i just gave up on it. i kept thinking this is not a book without knowing who the killer is. and then it occurred to me this is a book or site or because no one knows who the killer is. there'd be years when i just her to forget about it.
but unlike any other store had other store and worked on that haunted me. >> how long were you at this? >> off in about 10 years. my first book was published in 2006. i said well for 10 years. >> is that an object lesson for people to have a full-time job who also think they want to read a book in both their cases? here at the university, the sort of two great books on the side. >> i will also say i became a mom in the middle of that. i think that slowed me down also. i realize that this whole publication has been a moment for my daughter and i because she's been living with this thing for her whole life. they're sort of this thing not to be sent to my six-year-old to be like this is when it was done. >> not too many.
>> u.s. have a boat going on a book idea? >> i've many. after the exhaustion and pain are right in this one, i'm not sure i want to do another one. >> we have a gentleman with the microphone i believe right here. since we are recording this, if you have a question, raise your hand and give him a second to get over there so we can pick the question is does the answer. >> it's your legacy involved here. >> my question is for both of you in writing these books, did you get any inside into the mentality of the perpetrator of these crimes? the newspapers there any sources come up with any suggestions of some kind of a reasonably pharisaical socialist or psychological in nature as to what these perpetrators might be about?
>> or make him except for the new york world article in a couple had from the san antonio reporter is the one who invented the phrase midnight assassin who says this is the kind of brilliant killer. there was no analysis of what psychologically would drive someone to massacre one woman after another in this ritualistic fashion. that just wasn't part of a reporter is ammo. so there were lots of blades in my story. there's lots of holes that i kept wanting to go interview people back then to say who did she think it was? it just didn't come out of the papers and without that i was stuck. >> you both talked about newspaper clippings and has been available. our police files still around fromack then for investigative notes and so forth? >> i definitely use police records, detect disk of the
bills of indictment from the court record, but also to answer your question, it's a really great question and i really struggled with but to make a hannah mary tabbs. in the book i wanted to really make her at the heart of the story, but how to do that when you have the sources that don't necessarily give you the folks actual voice. a lot of a lot of times on the records are based on someone else's above her. the newspaper accounts reported how she behaved. her husband statements about what she did or said. other neighbors coming forward. so i was really trying to research her background to figure out where. i didn't think the folks were the folks who whine so i tried to see when was the one? i don't believe anyone is born with the ability to be that these people and do this stuff
and commit the kinds of crime she was able to do in the community before ever surface. so i have been on this research even into whether or not she had been in lived in maryland and i came across the county where she was born, actually was known for really particularly virulent clan of slaveowners who were especially brutal and appoint the the researchers speculated as to whether or not she had experienced some sort of trauma then. just being on the precipice of woman had during the civil war come in maryland was occupied territory. a number of bottles to place. i imagine perhaps the trauma of those times in some way affected her. >> to any of the principal cared reason neither boat, where there accounts of what people were really like based on defendant?
with their family members of people you are able to find who had their own version of history in the family conversation? >> i've done a lot of family in the yours to do nothing about the murders. in the descendents of one of the big guns, when i mentioned how her great, rate and was murdered, she gasped because the family story that she had been told was completely different than the one that have been. so there's a lot of gaps in a lot of missing records. in fact -- i'm sorry, go ahead. >> we have another question? >> thank you. with the authors have an observation or opinion of the new podcast of true crime journalism like serial?
or do you think that type of reporting would stand up to the bricks and mortar, which are authors like yourself? >> i think the second season has grabbed hold of the public. they will constantly be trying another. it would be one season after another today. it was riveting journalism and entertainment at the same time. and of course has led to a new trial for the guy. >> that brings us to a very good conversation about wiltshire north 100 years from now be writing about how much we were informed or misinformed by her biases of the social status class. look at the tremendous disagreement in the country between the treatment by principally white policeman of
black people, the number of shooting of unarmed like men and a very divisive conversation we are having over culpability on night and what needs to be done. very just as divided over whether or not justices is something shared equally by the two races now as it was back then. >> i would say so. one of the things that was really sort of the tragedy for me of the case. there are many tragedies, but one of the things that was really hard was to see how much of what i was started studying unlucky not for the way that the black community and the police the community sort of did this in a did with same sort of crisis moment we are at today. so you know, once they decide that this is actually a black
suspect most violent crime is interracial, meaning black people mostly kill black people in white people mostly kill white people. they go into the black community and they are charged with the task of quote, quote hunting a sub one. basically just scoop up the block and intimidate interrogated folks. but it was also nodding, and for black people to be stopped or detained for walking down the street and neighborhood they didn't belong. there's an example of the book of a black man who was stopped and detained because he was big, black and had a record. you know, so there are obvious ways in which so much of that profiling and the violent and getting coerced confessions held true. but even in certain respects, even the ways in which i think
wilson and protect his or was taken in and a jet during his interrogation by the authorities, folks had described him is slow. he was barely 18 years old. at one point they actually gave him alcohol during his interrogation. his confession is what her to stand up and hold against them. the recent documentary with a big splash on netflix, honda maker murder or something like that. this is juvenile and there's clearly -- real challenges. in a way that husband still incarcerated. so i was shocked at the amount of criminal justice system related to race and class that had not changed. >> time for one more question. yes, sir. >> while you're going into your
research in austin, to determine when the famous island and the legislature arch? -- merged. [laughter] >> you can't do a book about texas without someone doing a political joke. [laughter] >> i've completely lost my train of thought. we still had time for a question. we have one over here. help me out, man. >> what are you reading right now and is there anything you always go back to reread? i'm a reader and there's too many books to read. >> was that a question? >> the question was -- what are we reading now? >> i like a lot of time at the blogs. i read her. i also am looking for summer because the couple folks are
really excited about. one is. one inspired by shawn harris harris. it's literally called on the next x workers and numbers runners, look in a suit of and cried mid-20th century new york. i went to get my hands on that. another book called no mercy or about black women unchain gave. so there are a couple of hurting the books that are coming out that i just can't wait to read. >> kelley is just a little bit of sass. just a little. >> tiny bit. >> i've been buying guilt looks. i've completely forgotten the name of the guys just what the book about poverty and housing to discuss the top reviews. these are books about journalists doing really significant, important social changes they instead of writing trashy, true crime histories. bill pileup on my bedside table
and i won't read them. >> trashy true crime history and there's two wonderful books here and i want to both skip and kali for sharing time with us. i have them both in hardcover and tablet and i wish you many sales. you're supposed to be signing books afterwards and i'm telling abroad. thank you very much. >> thank you. up at [applause] [inaudible conversations]
>> thank you so much for the faculty members of the law school to our board of directors which includes being morrison and others. and thank you to the entire nyu community. it's a remarkably creative and energetic and mold breaking institution at a very high level. that is rare and we are really grateful for your continuing in the tradition. the great dean of the law school long ago martha vanderbilt once said reform is not for the short winded. [laughter] and that is a tradition we take on at the brennan center.