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Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso
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Table of Contents

Prologue ; Ch 1 "Handle With Care" ; Ch 2 "The Woman Found" ; Ch 3 "To Do Him Bodily Harm" ; Ch 4 "Wavy Hair and Nearly White Skin" ; Ch 5 "Held for Trial" ; Ch 6 "The Defense Opens" ; Epilogue ; Notes ; Bibliography ; Index

About the Author

Kali Nicole Gross is Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of History at Rutgers University. She is also the author of Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880-1910. Her work has been featured on NPR and in The Washington Post, Jet, and Ebony.

Reviews

"A sordid murder reveals beliefs about race, sex, and justice in post-Civil War Philadelphia. Historian Gross draws on police and prison records, witness testimony, newspapers, and other archival sources to produce a thorough, absorbing examination of the crime, its context, and the two people tried."--Kirkus Reviews "Gross examines the intersections of race and gender in 19th-century Philadelphia in this dynamic and powerfully rendered account of the 1887 trial of Hannah Mary Tabbs...Gross's in-depth accounts of the police brutality, forced confessions, and science-based forensics involved in the case feel surprisingly modern."--Publishers Weekly "In this shrewd historical study, a salacious murder trial in 1887 Philadelphia offers insights on criminal justice, violence, race and gender."--Shelf Awareness "Kali Gross has written a riveting narrative of the crimes of an ordinary but notorious woman in late nineteenth-century urban America. She does not flinch from the harsh truths her subject forces her to face. She sketches a portrait with the complexity and sensitivity it deserves. The book bristles with lessons for understanding vulnerable communities and their engagement with the criminal justice system today."--Tera Hunter, Princeton University "This is a disturbing book, not only because the story swirls around a most gruesome murder, or because Hannah Mary Tabbs executed her crime with cold-blooded resolve and cinematic flair, or because its spellbinding narrative will leave you breathless at times. Rather, this is a disturbing book because Kali N. Gross disturbs all of our inherited categories, proving once again that woman, man, black, white, agency, evidence, truth, even justice, are too small for the historical subjects whose lives we wish to know. This is why Kali N. Gross is one of the most original and imaginative historians of her generation."--Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original "Kali Gross is one of the smartest historians around these days. And she's the most uncompromising in her commitment to discovering and telling true stories about fierce and fascinating lives-stories that illuminate the flaws running right through the rock of American history. You'll discover more than just the identity of the disembodied torso in the tale Gross spins about Hannah Mary Tabbs--but you'll discover that, too."--Edward E. Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism "Hollywood folks, if you're reading this, get the script ready for Viola Davis or Lynn Whitfield. This unsettling story of Tabbs, a married, working-class Black woman, who carries on a torrid affair, ends in a gruesome murder that rivals Lizzie Borden's legend."--Essence "It's the type of tale you don't often hear during Black History Month: the biography of an antiheroine who made her way in the world through violence, deception, and adultery. It's also a true-crime story told nearly 130 years after the fact--culminating in the century-late exoneration of a man who, Gross argues, was framed for murder....In uncovering the story, [Gross] shed light on the tense race relations of the time: Tabbs' vulnerable place under the law as a black woman, and Wilson's still-more-tenuous status as a light-skinned interracial man."--Philadelphia Inquirer "Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso is an engrossing whodunit and a gripping read with a suitably ambiguous ending that is not easy to forget."--New York Journal of Books "Using this 1887 murder of a mixed race victim as a starting point, Kali Nicole Gross explores America's complicated history with race, sex and violence. Gross meticulously dissected the detective and trial notes to recount the story of a love triangle gone terribly wrong, with race and the aftermath of slavery playing a central role."--Metro "Gross explores the life and crimes of this fascinating woman. Gross details this murder and dismemberment resulting from a love triangle gone wrong, and explores the lives of blacks and mulattoes in post-Reconstruction Philadelphia."--QRB: The Black Book Review "In following this specific, enthralling case from a time after the Civil War and before current tensions between police departments and communities of color, Gross connects the criminal justice system of the Reconstruction era with both its roots and where it ended up. Academic but accessible, this smart story is an absolute page-turner."--BUST "A sordid murder reveals beliefs about race, sex, and justice in post-Civil War Philadelphia. Historian Gross draws on police and prison records, witness testimony, newspapers, and other archival sources to produce a thorough, absorbing examination of the crime, its context, and the two people tried. " --Kirkus Reviews "Gross examines the intersections of race and gender in 19th-century Philadelphia in this dynamic and powerfully rendered account of the 1887 trial of Hannah Mary Tabbs...Gross's in-depth accounts of the police brutality, forced confessions, and science-based forensics involved in the case feel surprisingly modern." --Publishers Weekly "In this shrewd historical study, a salacious murder trial in 1887 Philadelphia offers insights on criminal justice, violence, race and gender." --Shelf Awareness "Kali Gross has written a riveting narrative of the crimes of an ordinary but notorious woman in late nineteenth-century urban America. She does not flinch from the harsh truths her subject forces her to face. She sketches a portrait with the complexity and sensitivity it deserves. The book bristles with lessons for understanding vulnerable communities and their engagement with the criminal justice system today." --Tera Hunter, Princeton University "This is a disturbing book, not only because the story swirls around a most gruesome murder, or because Hannah Mary Tabbs executed her crime with cold-blooded resolve and cinematic flair, or because its spellbinding narrative will leave you breathless at times. Rather, this is a disturbing book because Kali N. Gross disturbs all of our inherited categories, proving once again that woman, man, black, white, agency, evidence, truth, even justice, are too small for the historical subjects whose lives we wish to know. This is why Kali N. Gross is one of the most original and imaginative historians of her generation." --Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original "Kali Gross is one of the smartest historians around these days. And she's the most uncompromising in her commitment to discovering and telling true stories about fierce and fascinating lives-stories that illuminate the flaws running right through the rock of American history. You'll discover more than just the identity of the disembodied torso in the tale Gross spins about Hannah Mary Tabbs - but you'll discover that, too." --Edward E. Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism "Hollywood folks, if you're reading this, get the script ready for Viola Davis or Lynn Whitfield. This unsettling story of Tabbs, a married, working-class Black woman, who carries on a torrid affair, ends in a gruesome murder that rivals Lizzie Borden's legend." --Essence

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