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Memorial Hall Library

Deep Delta Justice: A Virtual Conversation with Author Matthew Van Meter

Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - 7:00pm

Author and journalist, Matthew Van Meter will discuss his book, Deep Delta Justice: A Black Teen, His Lawyer, and Their Groundbreaking Battle for Civil Rights in the South.

A recording of this program is available here.

Register through Zoom.

In 1966 in a small town in Louisiana, a 19-year-old black man named Gary Duncan pulled his car off the road to stop a fight. Duncan was arrested a few minutes later for the crime of putting his hand on the arm of a white child. Rather than accepting his fate, Duncan found Richard Sobol, a brilliant, 29-year-old lawyer from New York who was the only white attorney at "the most radical law firm" in New Orleans. Against them stood one of the most powerful white supremacists in the South, a man called simply "The Judge."

In this powerful work of character-driven history, journalist Matthew Van Meter vividly brings alive how a seemingly minor incident brought massive, systemic change to the criminal justice system. Using first-person interviews, in-depth research and a deep knowledge of the law, Van Meter shows how Gary Duncan's insistence on seeking justice empowered generations of defendants-disproportionately poor and black-to demand fair trials. Duncan v. Louisiana changed American law, but first it changed the lives of those who litigated it.

Matthew Van Meter works with people whose voices have been ignored or silenced, both as a journalist and as Assistant Director of Shakespeare in Prison. His writing about criminal justice has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, and elsewhere, and he is currently editing the first critical edition of Shakespeare written by incarcerated people. Raised Quaker on the East Coast, he makes his home in Detroit.

This program is sponsored by a group of Merrimack Valley Libraries Working Towards Social Justice: Andover Memorial Hall Library, Stevens Memorial Library, and Tewksbury Public Library.