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Short Synopsis
A heroic reconstruction of the forgotten life of a wrongfully convicted man whose story becomes a historic portrait of the Jim Crow South.

Full Synopsis
Caliph Washington's life was never supposed to matter. As a black teenager from the vice-ridden city of Bessemer, Alabama, Washington was wrongfully convicted of killing an Alabama policeman in 1957. Sentenced to death, he came within minutes of the electric chair—nearly a dozen times. A Kafka-esque legal odyssey in which Washington's original conviction was overturned three times before he was finally released in 1972, his story is the kind that pervades the history of American justice. Here, in the hands of historian S. Jonathan Bass, Washington's ordeal and life are rescued from anonymity and become a moving parable of one man's survival and perseverance in a hellish system.

He Calls Me by Lightning is both a compelling legal drama and a fierce depiction of the Jim Crow South that forces us to take account of the lives cast away by systemic racism.

"This is an outstanding look at both an apparent travesty of justice and the system that produced it." ---Booklist Starred Review

"He Calls Me by Lightning insists that we face the cost of lives that don’t matter to a persistent racial caste system. It reminds us that human endurance and irrepressible love outlast the glacial pace of change, and proves how much we do not yet know about our history." ---New York Times

"A masterly book that is well written and thoroughly researched. . . . By illuminating Washington's story of courage in the face of an unjust legal system, Bass writes an important book for those concerned about civil rights in this new era of challenges to them." ---Library Journal Starred Review

"A stirring book that explores numerous aspects of racism in Alabama and the nation as a whole." ---Kirkus Starred Review

"Mirron Willis's deep, slightly raspy voice has a gentleness and a slight Southern accent that make listening to the audiobook enjoyable, even if the story leaves one heartbroken and sickened." ---AudioFile
Kirkus Bestseller

Booklist Review

Library Journal Review

Kirkus Review

Washington Post Notable Book

He Calls Me By Lightning

The Life of Caliph Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty

Author S. Jonathan Bass

Narrated by Mirron Willis

Publication date May 2, 2017

Running time 14 hrs

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