On May 3, 1946, in St. Martinsville, Louisiana, a seventeen-year-old black boy was scheduled for execution by electric chair. Willie Francis had been charged with murder; his trial had been brief; his death sentence never in doubt. When the executioners flipped the switch, Willie screamed and writhed as electricity coursed through his body. But Willie Francis did not die. Having miraculously survived, Willie was informed that the state would attempt to execute him a second time within a week. The ensuing legal battle went all the way to the Supreme Court, asking: Could the state electrocute someone twice? A gripping narrative about a brutal crime and its shocking aftermath, The Execution of Willie Francis offers a heroicand ultimately tragictale of one mans quest for moral justice in a nation still blinded by race.
Gilbert King is the author of Woman, Child for Sale: The New Slave Trade in the 21st Century, which was selected by the Detroit Free Press as one of its ten Notable Books of the Year. In addition, he has contributed articles to numerous newspapers and magazines, including the Washington Post, Playboy, and the San Diego Union. He lives in New York City. www.williefrancis.com