Matthew Van Meter, Deep Delta Justice
Six Bridges Book Festival presents Deep Delta Justice, a virtual conversation with author Matthew Van Meter.
Registration is required. Confirmation will be emailed today, a link to the virtual event will be emailed August 13. Registration closes two hours before the event begins.
About the Book
Deep Delta Justice: A Black Teen, His Lawyer, and Their Groundbreaking Battle for Civil Rights in the South
by Matthew Van Meter
The “arresting, astonishing history” of one lawyer and his defendant who together achieved a “civil rights milestone” (Justin Driver).
In 1966 in a small town in Louisiana, a 19-year-old black man named Gary Duncan pulled his car off the road to stop a fight. Duncan was arrested a few minutes later for the crime of putting his hand on the arm of a white child. Rather than accepting his fate, Duncan found Richard Sobol, a brilliant, 29-year-old lawyer from New York who was the only white attorney at “the most radical law firm” in New Orleans. Against them stood one of the most powerful white supremacists in the South, a man called simply “The Judge.”
In this powerful work of character-driven history, journalist Matthew Van Meter vividly brings alive how a seemingly minor incident brought massive, systemic change to the criminal justice system. Using first-person interviews, in-depth research and a deep knowledge of the law, Van Meter shows how Gary Duncan’s insistence on seeking justice empowered generations of defendants-disproportionately poor and black-to demand fair trials. Duncan v. Louisiana changed American law, but first it changed the lives of those who litigated it.
Accolades for Deep Delta Justice
A Library Journal 2020 Title to Watch
An Observer Best Book of the Spring
One of Publishers Weekly‘s Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2020
“A seminal work of impeccable scholarship.” – Library Journal, starred
“Excellent debut…readers will be struck by how many of the issues involved-voter suppression, public funding for private schools, racial inequalities in the criminal justice system-are still being legislated today.” – Publisher Weekly, starred review
“An examination of a 1966 racial confrontation and its aftermath, which “would help dismantle the infrastructure of white supremacy that had strangled [a rural Louisiana] community for centuries”…Will appeal to admirers of Bryan Stevenson…Timely reading.” – Kirkus
“Matthew Van Meter dives into great detail through interviews, research and a rich knowledge of the law to reveal the society as well as the men subject to a justice system in need of systemic change.” – Observer
“Deep Delta Justice is an uncommonly good true story told uncommonly well. Based on extensive reporting and first-rate historical research, it presents an unforgettable account of a landmark civil rights lawsuit that culminated in a Supreme Court decision affirming the right to a jury trial in most criminal cases. Van Meter’s narrative, which takes more twists and turns than the Mississippi, is suspenseful, infuriating, and sometimes funny. This is a wonderful book, worthy of a permanent place in the literature of the American civil rights movement.” – Patricia O’Toole, The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made and When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt after the White House
“Deep Delta Justice provides the arresting, astonishing history of a racial conflict that began on Louisiana’s backroads and resulted in a momentous Supreme Court victory for all Americans. Pairing an investigative journalist’s probing research with a novelist’s eye for detail, Matthew Van Meter offers the definitive backstory of an all-too-often overlooked civil rights milestone.” – Justin Driver, Yale Law School, author of The Schoolhouse Gate
“In the spirit of Melissa Fay Greene’s classic Praying For Sheetrock, Matthew Van Meter takes readers to one of the most indelible yet obscure battlegrounds of the Civil Rights Movement and shows how grassroots heroism can topple even one of segregation’s most fearsome tyrants.” – Samuel G. Freedman, Columbia University Professor of Journalism, author of Breaking the Line
“In his vivid new book Matthew Van Meter takes us into the world of injustice Jim Crow created, where the smallest of touches could destroy a man’s life. From that darkness he draws an absorbing story of courage, resistance, and the promise of profound change. Read Deep Delta Justice for the history it recovers – and the hope it holds for our own dark time.” – Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age
About the Author
Matthew Van Meter, raised a Quaker, is a graduate of the M.F.A. nonfiction program at Columbia University, and he’s written about criminal justice for the Atlantic, Longreads, and The Awl. Prior to his M.F.A., he wrote about the former Soviet Union for Forbes and Russia, and he was a columnist for Russia Profile. He lives in Detroit, Michigan.