Freedom’s Detective by Charles Lane

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Even criminals hated the KKK.

Quick synopsis: The life of Hiram C. Whitley, one of the earliest leaders of the Secret Service and renowned KKK detective. He was also a criminal.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: Why does the President have the ability to pardon criminals? It was intended to end insurrections faster by giving the executive power to entice leaders to quit rebelling without fear of jail.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: Do you live in Chipley, Florida? Congratulations! Your town is named after a man who was part of the murder of a reconstructionist politician! His Wikipedia page erroneously tries to discuss it away. The references section is hilariously lacking.

My Take: It takes a thief to catch a thief. The Grant administration took this quite literally.

This book does a great job on two fronts. First, it is an unflinching look at Hiram C. Whitley. One on hand, he was a villain, racist, and thief. On the other hand, he was a hero, innovator, and friend to the black community. Lane lets you see both sides of him and does not make excuses to exonerate him.

Lane also does a fantastic job in describing the backdrop of Reconstruction in the south following the Civil War. Politics and violence were the ways of life for everyone and no one in between would be tolerated. This book makes you wonder how a single black person even survived in the south post-Civil War.

Lane also gets right to the point and moves the story along fast. For those who like to have sources to back up the facts, Lane has one of the most expansive references section especially considering it’s a short book.

Verdict: Really great book. Reads like a novel and could even interest non-history nerds.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Miriam C. Davis, The Axeman of New Orleans
  • Skip Hollandsworth, The Midnight Assassin
  • Victoria Bruce and William Oldfield, Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society
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Freedom’s Detective by Charles Lane
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