skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 158008 Find in a Library
Title: Martinsville Seven: Race, Rape, and Capital Punishment
Author(s): E W Rise
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 226
Sponsoring Agency: University of Virginia Press
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Publication Number: ISBN 0-8139-1567-8
Sale Source: University of Virginia Press
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States of America
Type: Historical Overview
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This book examines the 1949 rape of a white woman in Martinsville, Va., and the subsequent legal procedures that led to the conviction and execution of seven young black men for the rape, along with the aftermath of the case.
Abstract: In January 1949, a 32-year-old white woman in Martinsville, Virginia, accused seven young black men of raping her. Within 2 days, State and local police had rounded up all the suspects and extracted confessions from them. In a series of trials that lasted 11 days, all were found guilty and sentenced to death. The sentences were carried out in February 1951, amid a storm of protest from civil-rights advocates and death-penalty opponents. This book examines and describes in detail every aspect of the proceedings, from the commission of the crime through two sets of appeals. The author re-examines common assumptions about the administration of justice in the South. Although racial prejudice clearly contributed to the outcome of the case, so did concerns for due process, crime control, community stability, judicial restraint, and domestic security. The success of the due process campaign by groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People helped curb the most egregious abuses of authority, but it did little to help defendants who conceded their guilt but protested unusually severe sentences. The author focuses on the efforts of the attorneys for the Martinsville Seven, who, rather than citing procedural errors, directly attacked the discriminatory application of the death penalty. This was the first case in which statistical evidence was used to substantiate systematic discrimination against blacks in capital cases. Chapter notes, a 429-item bibliography, and a subject index
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Court procedures; Racial discrimination; Rape; Sexual assault victims; Virginia
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.