Bryan Stevenson tells the story of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law office he founded in Montgomery, Alabama. The book presents several of their cases and the work they have done to challenge death penalty convictions, and the practice of sentencing children to die in prison. Stevenson illustrates how our justice system can too often be used to perpetuate racial injustice, and his story also serves as a powerful reminder that a small group of dedicated people can bring about positive changes. Learn more at justmercy.eji.org.
This book calls for reconciliation in society that is radical, that goes to the roots. Too many initiatives for reconciliation, fail to remove the weeds of injustice at the roots, and thus stop short of completing the work required. Such political arrangements usually favor the rich and powerful, but deprive the powerless of justice and dignity. This is a form of political pietism, and when Christians refuse to name this situation for what it is, they are practicing Christian quietism. True reconciliation is radical.
In this book the authors a South African prominent in the struggle against apartheid, and a white U.S. theologian who has served in pastoral roles in multi-racial congregations offer a vision of reconciliation and social justice grounded in the biblical story and their own experience of activism. After re-examining the meaning of reconciliation in the biblical context, the authors examine Jesus role as a radical reconciler and prophet of social justice. They go on to examine the role of reconciliation in religious communities and in the wider society.
Since this was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it helped inspire the creation of the Marshall Project and the new $100 million Art for Justice Fund; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the prestigious NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times best seller list.
Most important of all, it has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists and organizations motivated by Michelle Alexander’s unforgettable argument that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it”. As the Birmingham News proclaimed, it is “undoubtedly the most important book published in this century about the U.S.”
The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and souls of black folk. Both the cross and the lynching tree represent the worst in human beings and at the same time a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning. While the lynching tree symbolized white power and black death, the cross symbolizes divine power and black life God overcoming the power of sin and death. For African Americans, the image of Jesus, hung on a tree to die, powerfully grounded their faith that God was with them, even in the suffering of the lynching era.