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Poster for Harvard Book Store presents Margaret A. Burnham

Harvard Book Store presents Margaret A. Burnham

Coming on September 27

Run Time: 90 min.

Harvard Book Store Presents:

Margaret A. Burnham


By Hands Now Known:
Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners

in conversation with KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD

Harvard Book Store welcomes civil rights lawyer, defense attorney, and judge MARGARET A. BURNHAM for a discussion of her new book By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners. She will be joined in conversation by KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, Director of the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project at the Harvard Kennedy School.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Brattle Theatre events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the venue. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth. At venues where refreshments are served, attendees may briefly unmask when actively eating or drinking.
  • Attendance is capped so as to allow for some social distancing in the venue.

For the time being, we will not be holding author signings at these events, in order to limit close contact. When possible, we will have pre-signed books available for purchase on-site.


There are two ticket options available for this event.

Book-Included Ticket: Includes admission for one and one hardcover copy of By Hands Now Known.

Admission-Only Ticket: Includes admission for one.

About By Hands Now Known

If the law cannot protect a person from a lynching, then isn’t lynching the law?

In By Hands Now Known, Margaret A. Burnham, director of Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, challenges our understanding of the Jim Crow era by exploring the relationship between formal law and background legal norms in a series of harrowing cases from 1920 to 1960. From rendition, the legal process by which states make claims to other states for the return of their citizens, to battles over state and federal jurisdiction and the outsize role of local sheriffs in enforcing racial hierarchy, Burnham maps the criminal legal system in the mid-twentieth-century South, and traces the unremitting line from slavery to the legal structures of this period and through to today.

Drawing on an extensive database, collected over more than a decade and exceeding 1,000 cases of racial violence, she reveals the true legal system of Jim Crow, and captures the memories of those whose stories have not yet been heard.

Praise for By Hands Now Known

“If you truly want to understand why police and vigilantes who kill Black people are rarely held to account, you must read this extraordinary book . . . By far the most sobering and most illuminating work I have ever read on the long history of state-sanctioned racial violence in the US.” ―Robin D. G. Kelley

“Needs to be read by everyone who recognizes the historic mandate of our time: to interrupt cycles of racist violence . . . Rigorously delineated, passionately argued, Margaret A. Burnham’s book offers us heart-wrenching cases . . . But Burnham goes further, asking us to finally acknowledge the history of ever-present resistance, even under the most insurmountable conditions, and to consider what justice might mean today.” ―Angela Y. Davis

“In this necessary and important book, Margaret A. Burnham addresses the enormous violence necessary to sustain Jim Crow through a series of compelling case studies about the lives destroyed by the brutal regime of separate but equal . . . In reckoning with the impact of this history on the present, Burnham asks how we might undo or redress this legacy of violence. It is timely and essential reading.” ―Saidiya Hartma

author photo: Khalil Gibran MuhammadKhalil Gibran Muhammad

Khalil Gibran Muhammad is the Ford Foundation Professor of History, Race and Public Policy, and Director of the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is the award-winning author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Harvard), and a contributor to a 2014 National Research Council study. Khalil co-hosts the Pushkin podcast “Some of My Best Friends Are,” and is a frequent reviewer and commentator in national print and broadcast media outlets, such as the Washington Post, National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, MSNBC, and the New York Times, which includes his sugar essay for The 1619 Project.


author photo: Margaret A. BurnhamMargaret A. Burnham

Margaret A. Burnham is the founding director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University, and has been a staffer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, civil rights lawyer, defense attorney, and judge. She was nominated by President Biden to serve on the Civil Rights Cold Case Review Board. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Photo Credit: The History Makers

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