Rape in Chicago
Race, Myth, and the Courts
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Women in American History
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
After more than a decade of research and writing on the topic of rape myths and rape trials in a modern city, I assumed that I would feel great satisfaction in finally sitting down to acknowledge those who have helped me along the way. Instead, I find myself...
Introduction: “An Accusation Easily to Be Made”
Rape. The word itself grips the public imagination with a sense of horror, fear, and perhaps even morbid fascination. Familiar responses include sympathy and support for the victims, outrage at the perpetrators, and an understandable concern for personal safety...
1. Rape Victims and the Modern Justice System
On the evening of November 21, 1936, thirty-eight year old Anna Brasy, a white woman who sang soprano in her church choir, finished practice and went home. She lived with her mother and brother in a Lincoln Square apartment on Chicago’s north side...
2. The Power of Racial Rape Myths after World War II
In 1939, jazz singer Billie Holiday first performed Strange Fruit, an emotionally intense song about African Americans lynched in the South. Holiday released the song that year on an independent label because her regular one, Columbia, was not interested...
3. Black Victims and Postwar Trial Strategies
In February 1959, Bernice Briggs appeared in court to testify against rape defendant Lawrence White, whom she accused of sexually attacking her the previous year. When she began recounting the circumstances that led up to the assault, Briggs quickly identified the...
4. Order in the Court
During the 1960s the United States Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren, handed down a series of opinions that altered the structure of criminal trials across the country. Following legal trends of the postwar era, the high court standardized...
5. Second-Wave Feminists (Re)Discover Rape
On a summer day in 1975, real estate agent Lori Grisco met James Dvornik, her former neighbor, about a potential sale. They had been friendly before Dvornik got divorced and moved from the neighborhood, so she agreed to discuss the details of her company’s...
Conclusion: Ripped from the Headlines
During the spring of 1989, a horrifying story appeared in the New York City media before capturing the nation’s attention with its appalling yet arguably familiar tone. For weeks, newspapers reported on the vicious beating and rape of a white woman, a...
Appendix: Case File Data