A Second Reckoning

Race, Injustice, and the Last Hanging in Annapolis

The story of a murder, a hanging, and the centuries-long search for justice for minorities under the American legal system.
Publication date:
October 2021
Publisher :
Potomac Books, Inc.
Editor :
Scott D Seligman
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781640124653

Dimensions : 228 X 152 mm
Not Yet Published. Available for PreOrder.


• Set in Jim Crow Maryland, recounts the story of a case many Black and white Annapolitans saw as a "legal lynching."
• It takes the reader through the discovery of the murder, the police investigation that followed, the arrest of Snowden, his brutal interrogation and his trial (and its attendant legal shenanigans), the refusal of the then-governor to commute his sentence, and his death on the scaffold
• Tells the story of not only a murder and hanging but also the centuries-long search for justice for minorities under the American legal system.
• This book demonstrates that it is wrongheaded for the government to decline categorically to investigate posthumous cases. Society as a whole benefits when historic wrongs are righted, a process that may carry tremendous symbolic importance, as it did in Annapolis

A Second Reckoning tells the story of John Snowden, a Black man accused of the murder of a pregnant white woman in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1917. He refused to confess despite undergoing torture, was tried - through legal shenanigans - by an all-white jury, and was found guilty on circumstantial evidence and sentenced to death. Despite hair-raising, last-minute appeals to spare his life, Snowden was hanged for the crime. But decades after his death, thanks to tireless efforts by interested citizens and family members who believed him a victim of a "legal lynching," Snowden was pardoned posthumously by the governor of Maryland in 2001.

A Second Reckoning uses Snowden's case to bring posthumous pardons into the national conversation about amends for past racial injustices. Scott D. Seligman argues that the repeal of racist laws and policies must be augmented by reckoning with America's judicial past, especially in cases in which prejudice may have tainted procedures or perverted verdicts, evidence of bias survives, and a constituency exists for a second look. Seligman illustrates the profound effects such acts of clemency have on the living and ends with a siren call for a reexamination of such cases on the national level by the Department of Justice, which officially refuses to consider them.