On August 2, 2007, Chauncey Bailey, a journalist in Oakland, was murdered. Very quickly we learn that his murder was a purposeful attempt to silence him. You wonder, Who would do this? Why? What was Bailey reporting on? And as investigative reporter Thomas Peele unspools the story thread by thread, it is like watching a horrible accident and feeling like you cannot turn away.
Subtitled A Story of Radical Faith, Racism’s Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist, Peele’s riveting narrative covers all of that and more. Having begun with the murder, he turns back the clock to examine the racism that permeated the United States in the 1920’s and 1930’s and the dreadful conditions that many African-Americans endured, particularly in cities where, ironically, they had sought refuge from abuses in the South. These conditions sparked anger and enabled some manipulative, malevolent men to take advantage of their desperate, uneducated neighbors; but even this is an understatement when you read about the cult that emerged in Oakland.
I don’t want to give too much away. But I will say this: in addition to being a heinous act, the murder of Chauncey Bailey was quite avoidable. And by the end, you will understand why.