Portrait of a Racist, Second Edition

Byron De La Beckwith and the Assassination of Medgar Evers

  • Author(s): Massengill, Reed
  • Series:
  • Imprint: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2024-01-19
  • Status: Not Yet Published - Will Back Order
  • Available in Paper: Price $29.95 | Buy Now
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Originally published in 1994, Portrait of a Racist is an astonishing biography of Byron De La Beckwith (1920–2001), who murdered Black civil rights leader Medgar Evers in June 1963. Written by Beckwith’s nephew by marriage, the book is based on dozens of exclusive personal interviews with Beckwith and people who knew him—as well as letters Beckwith wrote directly to the author. These unique sources provide as definitive a glimpse into the chilling psychological landscape of a man devoted to murderous intolerance as we will likely ever have. Although the slaying of Evers helped to galvanize the civil rights movement in the South, the killer evaded justice for three decades after the crime. Twice tried for murder in the 1960s—both times by all-male, all-White juries—Beckwith was finally convicted in a third trial in 1994.

Accompanied by new illustrations that have never been printed before, this new edition includes an afterword that recounts the author’s participation as a witness and his introduction of new evidence in the third trial. It also chronicles Beckwith’s last years of declining health behind bars, examines the rich scholarship on Evers and civil rights that has arisen since this book’s original appearance, and reflects on the catastrophic persistence of Beckwith’s ideology—Christian nationalism and white supremacy—in our own times.


REED MASSENGILL is a widely published writer and photographer. He is currently completing his first film-related book, entitled Inspiration: Greta Garbo’s Seven Classic Film Collaborations with Director Clarence Brown.