U.S. History

The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South

Alex Heard

About the Program

Alex Heard, editorial director for Outside magazine, recounts the death penalty trial of Willie McGee.  In 1945, Mr. McGee, an African-American, was sentenced to death for allegedly raping white housewife, Willete Hawkins in Laurel, Mississippi.  Mr. McGee was defended by Bella Abzug, a New York labor lawyer who was dispatched by the Civil Rights Congress, a civil rights organization with ties to the Communist Party.  Ms. Abzug and a collection of Mississippi lawyers fought the case until 1951, bringing it national attention and making it a rallying point for civil rights advocates.  President Truman and the U.S. Supreme Court were inundated with clemency pleas from the likes of Albert Einstein, William Faulkner, and Paul Robeson.  Willie McGee was pubically executed in Mississippi on May 8, 1951.  Alex Heard discusses his book at Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi.

About the Authors

Alex Heard

Alex Heard is the author of Apocalypse Pretty Soon: Travels in End-Time America.  He is the editorial director of Outside magazine and is a former editor and writer at Slate, Wired, and The New Republic.


Buy the author's book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Program Information

The Eyes of Willie McGee: A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South

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Past Airings

  • Monday, June 28th at 4am (ET)
  • Saturday, June 26th at 8:30pm (ET)
  • Saturday, June 26th at 12pm (ET)
  • Saturday, June 19th at 3pm (ET)
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