Cover Image: The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson

The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson

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Member Reviews

This was a very hard story to read as it brought to light all the inequities that blacks had to endure.  It was sickening and this man faced trial not once, but three times.  It revealed many happenings that I had no idea existed.  The book was beautifully written and even included footnotes which provided much detail.  This book took me a long time to read as it contained a lot of information.  This should be a must read for everyone.
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After reading the first chapter, which has multiple proofreading errors and is seemingly a bit repetitive, I decided to not read the rest of the work.  I do, however, want to thank the publishing firm for providing this copy for me to read.  It is just did not draw me in right from the get go.

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This book peaked my interest because it was a true crime case that I hadn’t heard of previously.I thought this was an intriguing and well written book.  The author had amazing attention for detail. I would recommend to anyone interested in a book mixed with true crime, history, and social justice.
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As an ATLien, I was excited to pick up this narrative nonfiction by an Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalist. I was not previously aware of this case, but couldn’t put down this book. For those seeking social Justice books.
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Intriguing, well researched, and wonderfully written. I struggled simply due to this being a nonfiction and it was one of the first I've ever read. Still, it kept my attention and the writer had an astounding attention to detail.
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This book was absolutely fabulous. What an important story, especially today when race issues are once again at the forefront of our society.
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Thank you to Abrams Press and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

// Content warning: racism, sexual assault, murder, death, violence //


// Quick Review //
5/5 Stars

I am horrified that I have never heard of this case previous to reading this novel. Chris Joyner presents the death sentences of Clarence Henderson in a factual and straightforward manner that is not only educational but trustworthy.


// Other Information //
Publisher: Abrams Press
Page Count: 352 pages
Release Date: January 11, 2022
Series: None
Genre: Non-fiction, True crime


// Book Description (via Goodreads) //
The story of Clarence Henderson, a Black sharecropper convicted and sentenced to death three times for a murder he didn’t commit

The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson is the story of Clarence Henderson, a wrongfully accused Black sharecropper who was sentenced to die three different times for a murder he didn’t commit, and the prosecution desperate to pin the crime on him despite scant evidence. His first trial lasted only a day and featured a lackluster public defense. The book also tells the story of Homer Chase, a former World War II paratrooper and New England radical who was sent to the South by the Communist Party to recruit African Americans to the cause while offering them a chance at increased freedom. And it’s the story of Thurgood Marshall’s NAACP and their battle against not only entrenched racism but a Communist Party—despite facing nearly as much prejudice as those they were trying to help—intent on winning the hearts and minds of Black voters. The bitter battle between the two groups played out as the sides sparred over who would take the lead on Henderson’s defense, a period in which he spent years in prison away from a daughter he had never seen.

Through it all, The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson is a portrait of a community, and a country, at a crossroads, trying to choose between the path it knows is right and the path of least resistance. The case pitted powerful forces—often those steering legal and journalistic institutions—attempting to use racism and Red-Scare tactics against a populace that by and large believed the case against Henderson was suspect at best. But ultimately, it’s a hopeful story about how even when things look dark, some small measure of justice can be achieved against all the odds, and actual progress is possible. It’s the rare book that is a timely read, yet still manages to shed an informative light on America’s past and future, as well as its present.


// Review //

As I mentioned, before reading Chris Joyner’s novel I had never heard of Clarence Henderson, let alone the death sentences that he acquired in a time of injustice.

The life of Clarence Henderson is not only a cruel one, but one marred by the racism and injustices prevalent at the time of Buddy Steven Jr.’s murder.

Chris Joyner has done a fantastic job of collecting even the tiniest details and presenting them in his novel. When I searched up Clarence Henderson’s case, I found virtually no details whatsoever. The fact that Joyner has managed to gather and record a novel of the utmost detail that is also factual is something I admire him for.

The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson examines the murder of Buddy Stevens Jr. and how in a period where a black man stood no chance against a white one in court, Clarence Henderson was able to escape death.

I enjoy learning more about history and true crime cases; this novel was a perfect mixture of both. I’m beyond glad that I had the opportunity to learn about this case, as it is so important to examine the past.
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