"The Silencing of Ruby McCollum" refutes the carefully constructed public memory of one of the most famous - and underexamined - biracial murders in American history. On August 3, 1952, African American housewife Ruby McCollum drove to the office of Dr. C. LeRoy Adams, beloved white physician in the segregated small town of Live Oak, Florida. With her two young children in tow, McCollum calmly gunned down the doctor during (according to public sentiment) "an argument over a medical bill." Soon, a very different motive emerged, with McCollum alleging horrific mental and physical abuse at Adams's hand. In reaction to these allegations and an increasingly intrusive media presence, the town quickly cobbled together what would become the public facade of Adams's murder - a more "acceptable" motive for McCollum's actions. To ensure this would become the official version of events, McCollum's trial prosecutors voiced multiple objections during her testimony to limit what she was allowed to say.
Employing multiple methodologies to achieve her voice - historical research, feminist theory, African American literary criticism, African American history, and investigative journalism - Evans analyzes the texts surrounding the affair to suggest that an imposed code of silence demands not only the construction of an official story but also the transformation of a community's citizens into agents who will reproduce and perpetuate this version of events, improbable and unlikely though they may be.
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Number of pages: 208
Weight: 440 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
"Reveals the powerful memory work accomplished by southerners' reticence or refusal to speak. . . . [and] demonstrates the rhetorical value of muteness and the scholarly value of looking at public memory as a product not only of stuff but also of absence."--H-net Reviews
"Effectively shows how patriarchy and white supremacy . . . constructed a story and silenced McCollum and others to protect their community and its history. . . . Until now, the only memory of Ruby McCollum was a deliberately created one."--The Historian
"An account of how the murder in Live Oak, Florida, of a powerful white man, physician, and politician, C. LeRoy Adams, by an African American housewife, Ruby McCollum, and the subsequent trial threatened to reveal the underbelly of southern society, all the dirty little and big secrets of the community and the region. During the trial, McCollum's voice was never allowed to be heard. . . . A superb study."--Journal of Southern History
"An intriguing and compelling study of the race, gender, and class dynamics of segregated small-town Florida at mid-century."--Tampa Bay History
"Bigger-than-life (and long-dead) characters . . . inhabit this fascinating story like haunted-house ghosts."--South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"A tour de force that locates the unique forms of control and persuasion enacted by southern culture, and their meaning for the writing of history and historical memory alike. . . . A tremendously successful and engaging book."--Florida Historical Quarterly
"Evans uses the trial, which was covered by novelist Zora Neale Nurston, to examine the institutionalized silence that surrounded black women in the 1950s South."--Ms. Magazine