6 Questions from Courtroom Drama

Posted by Dan Alba on June 5, 2015

This is the final installment in a five-part series on The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law and Justice in the Reconstruction Era, by Michael A. Ross.

As I approached the last chapters of this book many questions emerged, particularly during the courtroom drama which unfolds in Chapter 9, "Unveiling The Mystery."

  • What message would be sent if the defendant is found guilty or not guilty?
  • Who would claim victory?
  • How would politics and the media, during this era of Reconstruction, use the verdict to influence public opinion?
  • How would the verdict reverberate throughout New Orleans or for that matter, the rest of the nation?
  • What would happen should this case fall apart altogether?
  • And finally, how would the verdict be attributed to race?
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Topics: Reconstruction, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, Book

The World Upside Down

Posted by Dan Alba on May 22, 2015

The politics of reconstruction had turned the world upside down."

This is part four in a five-part series on The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law and Justice in the Reconstruction Era, by Michael A. Ross.

Chapters 5 to 7 of The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case reveal that who you were - your color, position, gender, political affiliation, personal history, and where you were from - mattered. These attributes became the basis for how society judged an individual's motives or trustworthiness. One's credibility and reputation rested on these factors more than the substance of what you said or did.

Suspects Ellen Follin, a Creole, and her sister, Louisa Murray, are arrested for the kidnapping of Molly Digby. As a Creole, Ellen had greater status than former slaves in New Orleans society. She owned a Lying-In Hospital, which was what one newspaper referred to as a “house of secret obstetrics,” a questionable profession even then.

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Topics: The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, Book

Missed Opportunities

Posted by Dan Alba on April 24, 2015

This is part two in a five-part virtual book club on The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law and Justice in the Reconstruction Era, by Michael A. Ross.

For this week, we read Chapter One: “A Kidnapping in the Back of Town.” Chapter one sets the stage for introducing one of our country's most sensationalized kidnapping mysteries in history. Through the lives of ordinary Americans from every segment of society in 1870 New Orleans, we see the entire social order of society turned upside down at the height of Reconstruction after the Civil War.

With the kidnapping of Molly Digby, the 17-month-old baby from Irish working class parents, a cast of citizens navigate their identities, roles and responsibilities in a city torn apart by politics, racial fear, rumors, hysteria and religious accusations of Voodoo sacrifices. This includes:

  • Louisiana's Governor, Henry Clay Warmoth,
  • a Union army veteran from Illinois,
  • suspect Ellen Follin, described in the press as a "fashionable tall, mulatto woman, probably for the purpose of receiving a ransom,"
  • police chief Algernon Sidney Badger, originally from Massachusetts, and
  • African American detective John Baptise Jourdain, assigned to the Digby case.
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Topics: Reconstruction, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, Book

The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law, Justice in the Reconstruction Era

Posted by Dan Alba on April 10, 2015

Although his book reads like a classic "who done it?" detective story from the pages of Sherlock Holmes, Michael A. Ross, author of The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race and Justice in the Reconstruction Era offers deep insights into the hearts and minds of Southern society in the aftermath of the American Civil War. In honor of the release of Facing History and Ourselves' newest case study The Reconstruction Era: The Fragility of Democracy, we're doing a virtual book club on the blog!

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Topics: Reconstruction, The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, Book

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