Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America

Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America (Scribner, 2003) is the first and only full account of the Moore’s Ford lynching, a murder so brutal it stunned the nation and motivated President Harry Truman to put civil rights at the forefront of his national agenda. Drawing on interviews, archival sources, and an uncensored FBI report, Fire recounts the lynching and the resulting four-month FBI investigation, creating unforgettable portraits of sharecroppers, sheriffs, bootleggers, the victims, and the men who may have killed them.

It takes readers deep inside the landscape of 1946 Georgia, then pursues the legacy of the Moore’s Ford lynching into the present, exploring the conflicting memories of Walton County’s black and white citizens, and examining the testimony of a white man who claims he was a secret witness to the crime. In 2001, the governor of Georgia issued a new reward for information leading to the arrest of the lynchers.

There is no statute of limitations on the crime of murder, and so the investigation remains open to this day.

Read an Excerpt of Chapters One and Two

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Praise for Fire in a Canebrake

Fire in a Canebrake is so honest, so meticulous, so graceful in recreating a tragedy it somehow transcends the specific events of postwar rural Georgia and speaks instead, in some ineffable way, to America’s most enduring pathology. Four bodies fall in a quiet, barely marked place-and yet by the end of the tale, Laura Wexler has us thinking about the thousands lynched across this country, about law and sin, about complicity, corruption and national denial. We begin to get clean when we begin to remember.
David Simon, creator of HBO’s “The Wire” and author of The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood.

This is an outstanding work of narrative journalism, a book about murders and cover-ups that gleams with the plain beauty of truth-telling.
—Author Melissa Fay Greene

A searing, masterfully written, meticulous work that shines a brutally honest light on a dark moment from our not-so-distant-past. Laura Wexler’s page turner is vivid, engrossing and stunningly sad. A must read.
Dave Isay, creator of