Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, written by Brian Stevenson, is a true story and personal narrative about black lawyer Stevenson, in Alabama in the 1980’s. The book is about the author’s fight to overcome the racism cast upon him and help free wrongly accused black prisoners on death row. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization that defends these black prisoners who cannot afford a lawyer. The book tells the story of many different prisoners, but the main one featured is Walter McMillian, a black man falsely accused of killing Ronda Morrison, a white woman in 1986 in Alabama. Stevenson then helps McMillian and others in court to prove them innocent.
This book became a New York Times bestseller, as it unveiled how racial discrimination was and still is a big problem in the United States. Although the book was published in October 2014, it has recently spiraled into important reading due to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement this year. Just several months ago, many Americans were surprised by how vast the racism problem is when they saw images, videos and reports of police brutality inflicted upon black Americans. This book highlights what has been happening behind the scenes all along. To think how pervasive this problem has been and only now coming to light because of video recordings and social media is frightening, and Americans are finally giving this issue the attention it needs.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was founded in July 2013, when people started posting the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media following the shooting and death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old black teenager, by a white security guard who was found innocent at trial. This angered many Americans and resulted in protests around the country. Just Mercy had already been published many years prior, but the violence against the black community were continuing and starting to get more and more attention.
The movement had lost some attention over the years until the brutal murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May 2020, which was caught on video by bystanders. Protests set off like fireworks all across the country, especially in big cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York. Millions of people of all races participated in the protests, many of them turning violent as police and national guard were called upon to control the chaos.
There have been many subsequent events of highly publicized police brutality over the past several months, such as the murder of Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and more recently, Jacob Blake. These sadly represent only a few of the many murders of African Americans this year. Throughout the months of June and July, protests were everywhere.
The book Just Mercy provides insight into the injustice and racism that have tortured black Americans creating an environment that allows police brutality to continue. Just Mercy is an important book for understanding the BLM movement and the consequences of racial discrimination. It may be a shocking book to young readers but it will surely impact one’s viewpoint on race relations in the U.S. and the first step is educating yourself.
Black lives matter!