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by MaryKatherine Callaway, Director, LSU Press
A Books That Matter Essay

A More Noble Cause: A.P. Tureaud and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Louisiana, by Rachel Emanuel and Alexander P. Tureaud, Jr. (Louisiana State University Press, 2011)

Book Cover: A More Noble Cause

A More Noble Cause, by R. Emanuel and A.P. Tureaud, Jr., (ISBN: 9780807137932)

When I arrived at Louisiana State University (LSU) Press in 2003, one of the projects under contract was a biography of Alexander Pierre Tureaud, Sr., written by Rachel Emanuel and A.P. Tureaud, Jr. I had heard of Mr. Tureaud only vaguely, but his intriguing story pulled me in, and working with the two authors turned out to be one of the most affecting author-publisher relationships I’ve known.

To briefly summarize Mr. Tureaud’s complex and full life, he worked at one time as the only regularly practicing black attorney in Louisiana and led the legal fight to end segregation, discrimination, and disfranchisement in the Jim Crow era. Born in New Orleans, he received his law degree from Howard University, then returned to his hometown and worked as a civil rights pioneer, fighting successfully to obtain equal pay for black teachers, to desegregate public accommodations, schools, and buses, and to ensure the voting rights of black residents. Tureaud’s work, along with that of dozens of other African American lawyers, formed part of a larger legal battle that eventually overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 US Supreme Court decision that legalized racial segregation.

But my connection to Mr. Tureaud’s accomplishments came through his son, A.P. Tureaud, Jr., who struggled with intense racism when LSU admitted him in 1953 as its first black undergraduate. What a profound honor it was to meet this amazing man, who never forgot but long ago forgave the white students, professors, and administrators who ostracized and derided him during his time on campus. “I never thought that I would ever want to step on this campus again when I left,” he said. “All of the people that worked with me for years never knew that I had this history because it was just too painful and too anxiety-producing to relive again. It was just something that I wanted to get away from.”

Thanks to the work of Rachel Emanuel, Tureaud, Jr., was persuaded to return to campus and to help Emanuel with her research on his father. She first wrote about the elder Tureaud while earning degrees at LSU and producing two well-regarded documentaries, Journey for Justice: The A.P. Tureaud Story and Taking a Seat for Justice: The 1960 Baton Rouge Sit-Ins. Through her efforts, a new generation understands the injustices that both the Tureauds faced and how many people dedicated their lives to changing an unfair system. Emanuel poured much of the last ten years of her life into capturing this story, so that students, faculty, and staff would know it and understand the very tangible results that civil rights pioneers worked to achieve.

The book’s publication in April of 2011 offered us the opportunity to work with LSU’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Community Outreach and with Academic Affairs to host a symposium on the history of civil rights in Louisiana, featuring  Tureaud, Jr., Emanuel, and others.

Looking out over a packed auditorium of mostly students, many of whom were hearing for the first time gripping personal stories of the resolve, sacrifice, and dedication it took to bring about equal rights in our country, it was apparent how university press publishing can open up the world. By putting these personal stories in a larger historical context, everyone there left with a better understanding of our state and national history—not only the broad concepts, but the direct impact as well.

As Tureaud, Jr., told me, “I left Louisiana in 1960 because I didn’t want to be restricted in anything that I wanted to do as a person of color. Growing up in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and having to travel and not have a place to stay, having to sit in segregated train cars, having to buy gasoline at the gas station and go into the bushes to use the restroom, and go to back windows to buy food as we went from state to state, those were all demeaning experiences. We were segregated in every aspect of our lives. But, if you educated yourself and you partnered with other people and you used the written constitutional law of this country, you could prevail. And there was no bitterness or anger or the desire to destroy anything. The hope was that we could become a part of this wonderful society and country that we live in.”

I am proud to say that LSU awarded an honorary doctorate to A.P. Tureaud, Jr., in May 2011.

Publishing A.P. Tureaud’s story in A More Noble Cause,which is also his son’s story, was an enormous privilege that allowed us the opportunity to contribute to the community, and allowed me the opportunity to meet two of the most impressive people I will ever know.

by Peter Givler, Executive Director, AAUP
A Books That Matter Essay

Justifiable Homicide: Battered Women, Self Defense, and the Law,by Cynthia K. Gillespie (Ohio State University Press, 1990)

Book Cover: Justifiable Homicide

Justifiable Homicide, by Cynthia Gillespie (ISBN: 978-0814204665)

Before starting to work at AAUP, I was at Ohio State University Press, where we published a book that still stays in my mind. It was 1989 and the book was “Justifiable Homicide,” by Cynthia Gillespie, a lawyer and Executive Director of the Northwest Women’s Law Center, where she had worked extensively with women seeking refuge from abusive relationships. Her thesis in the book was simple and compellingly argued: because of the way the law had developed historically, battered women who killed their abusers were not permitted to plead self-defense, even though they believed they were in immediate danger of serious bodily harm. Deprived of a justifying defense, they were almost always convicted of murder.

Traditional self-defense law, Gillespie explained, assumes two men of roughly equal strength and ability, one of whom credibly threatens to kill the other. Unless he is defending his own home, the law obliges the person threatened to flee. If he kills his antagonist instead, to plead self-defense he would have to show that he was unable to get away—trapped between his assailant and the door, for example—or that he did try to flee, and his assailant pursued and continued to threaten him.

For women it was different. Self defense law did not recognize the right of a woman to defend herself, even in her home. Threatened, she should flee no matter what the circumstances. Courts were also extremely reluctant to allow potentially mitigating testimony by expert witnesses about battered woman’s syndrome, learned helplessness caused by repeated physical abuse at the hands of a spouse or domestic partner.

“The [traditional] law makes sense for what it was designed for—two men in a bar fight,” Gillespie once said, but not “for a woman trying to defend herself from a man who has threatened to kill her before.” In 1981 the Ohio Supreme Court had ruled that the syndrome had not been scientifically validated, and therefore that testimony about it was inadmissible.

Shortly after Justifiable Homicide was published, Dagmar Celeste, wife of then-Governor of Ohio Richard Celeste, gave her husband a copy of the book. He read it. He asked members of his staff to read it. His office then undertook a review of 105 cases of women in Ohio’s women’s prison, the Marysville Women’s Correctional Institute, many of them on death row, who had been convicted of murder in which battered women’s syndrome could have been a factor, if the court had allowed testimony about it.

On December 23, as he was leaving office, Governor Celeste granted clemency to 28 of those women:  24 were released, and the other 4 had to serve up to 2 more years in prison. On December 28, Andy Rooney, America’s lovable curmudgeon, wrote in The Columbus Dispatch that the Governor had just declared open season on Ohio husbands.[1]  The Ohio Attorney General vowed to re-prosecute.  Other responses were more humane.  In June the Ohio legislature passed a bill recognizing battered woman’s syndrome and the belief of imminent danger of harm as an element of self-defense.  Maryland Governor William Schaeffer commuted the sentences of 8 women, citing their inability to introduce evidence of abuse as a mitigating factor.  In the following two years 11 other governors either reduced or commuted sentences or granted clemency to women who had been similarly unable to introduce evidence of abuse at trial.[2]

In Ohio, a few months after the clemencies had been granted and the women released, Gillespie was invited to meet with shelter workers in Columbus, and to give a public talk.  There were 50 or 60 people in the audience: psychologists, social workers, lawyers.  Gillespie’s talk and the Q&A session that followed it were at a fairly high professional level: legal and regulatory considerations, psychological and safety issues, and so forth.  As things were winding down a woman sitting in the back of the room not far from me stood up and waited to be recognized.  “Ms. Gillespie,” she said, “I was one of those women on death row in Marysville.  I just wanted to say thank you.”  Then she left.

One of the persistent fears about allowing battered women to plead self-defense, as Rooney had so bluntly expressed it, was that it would allow them to get away with murder—and, implicitly, encourage them to kill again. The evidence has proved otherwise. A 2003 study of clemency for battered women[3] found that only two of the Ohio women granted clemency had been rearrested, one on property-related offenses and one on a drug charge. Their recidivism rate for violent crimes was zero.

Cynthia Gillespie died, of cancer, in 1993. Justifiable Homicide is now out of print.

[1] Andy Rooney, “Celeste Declares Open Season on Ohio Men,” Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 28, 1990, p. 11A.

[2] Ashcroft (Missouri, later U.S. Attorney General), Brandsted (Iowa), Wilson (California), Weld (Massachusetts), Romer (Colorado), Chiles (Florida), Jones (Kentucky), Merrill (New Hampshire), Pataki (New York), Edgar (Illinois) and Roberts (Oregon).

[3] Linda L. Ammons, “Why Do You Do the Things You Do?  Clemency for Battered Incarcerated Women, A Decade’s Review,” Journal of Gender, Social Policy & The Law, Vol. 11:2, 2003.

An essay series from the members of AAUP

AAUP members publish many thousands of books—and journals, reference collections, shorts, apps—that matter. From documentary editions that are the foundation of further research to local ecological guides, the work published must contribute to scholarship and an informed society. “Mattering” is another way of describing the baseline requirement for publication by one of our member presses.

But in every publisher or editor’s career, there are books that come to mind as the ones that mattered deeply. The books that stand out because of their impact on politics or the economy, on our need for justice and social equality, on our understanding of history and culture, on our knowledge of the regional and national issues of the day—a book that changed a reader or a community or a discipline, and sometimes a book that changed its editor.

Those are the books that lift what we do everyday from a dry talking point on the value of university presses to a vibrant and exciting business that gets us all up in the morning.

In this new essay series, we’ve invited editors and publishers to tell the stories of those books. We begin with three very different books and different ways of mattering: from Peter Givler, we read of publishing an idea that became, quite literally, a matter of life and death in Justifiable Homicide, MaryKatherine Callaway reflects on what it meant to the LSU community to bring to print the story of a Louisiana civil rights leader, and Clair Willcox shares the story of what happened when a press meant as much an author as his book meant to the press.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll read more such narratives of the books that mattered, and invite all AAUP members to share those tales with us.

Books the Matter
Feng Menglong’s Short Story Collections
Sojourner Truth and The Spitting Image
The Fosse Style
What Comes Naturally
Growing Season
Head Off & Split
Justifiable Homicide
A More Noble Cause
Blue Highways Revisited


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