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Gilbert Anthony King (born February 22, 1962) is an American writer and photographer. He is known best as the author of Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (2012), which won the Pulitzer Prize.[1] His previous history was The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South (2008).[2]

Gilbert King.jpg
BornGilbert Anthony King
February 22, 1962
OccupationWriter x
Notable worksDevil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, The Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America
Notable awardsPulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 2013

He has written for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and he is a featured contributor to the Smithsonian's history blog Past Imperfect.[3] As a photographer, his work has appeared in many magazines including international editions of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan.[4]


Gilbert King was born in 1962 in Rockville Center, New York and grew up in St. James, both on Long Island. When he was 12, he moved with his family to Schenectady, New York. King is a 1980 graduate of Niskayuna High School. He attended the University of South Florida, falling two math credits short of graduating before he decided to move to New York City. (On December 13, 2014, the university awarded King an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.)

In New York, King landed freelance writing and editing assignments for small newspapers and magazines. In 1991 he took a job with Macmillan Publishing as the assistant to the president and publisher. At the same time, as a self-taught photographer, he gained publication of his fashion and beauty work in national magazines such as Glamour, Jane, and Modern Bride, as well as international editions of magazines including Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Madame Figaro, and Marie Claire. Among his clients were L'Oreal, Redken, Michael Kors, and Thierry Mugler.

By 2002, King began photographing coffee table books for different publishers. When a writer withdrew from a golf antiques project, King was asked if he would take over researching and writing the book. For the next several years, King wrote various illustrated books, as well as ghostwriting for celebrities and noted experts in their fields. Since 2008, he has published two major works of non-fiction exploring issues in US civil rights history. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for his book on Thurgood Marshall, attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the 1949 case of the Groveland Boys.

King is an avid golfer. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and a French Bulldog.


The Execution of Willie FrancisEdit

The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South (2008) was published by Basic Civitas Books. It explores the life of Willie Francis, a 16-year-old African-American youth in Louisiana who, in 1946, survived being sentenced to death by the electric chair. His case became an international media story. His case was taken on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court by Bertrand DeBlanc, a young Cajun lawyer. Francis had been convicted of killing DeBlanc's good friend, Andrew Thomas. King reveals the backstage lobbying among the justices and Justice Frankfurter's regret about voting against his conscience in favor of allowing the execution to proceed.[5]


Counterpunch magazine said it was "almost certainly the best book on capital punishment in America since Mailer's, The Executioner's Song."[6] Booklist notes how "Drawing on extensive research and interviews, King offers a compelling page-turner that examines American racism and justice in the region."[7] In two starred reviews, Kirkus Reviews described the book as "strangely charming and unforgettable" and Library Journal said, "Highly recommended ... From the first page to the last, King holds our attention with gripping and disturbing details."[8]

Devil in the GroveEdit

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (HarperCollins, 2012)[1] explores another case of racial injustice. King won the annual Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2013 for this book.

In 1949 four young African-American men were falsely accused of raping a seventeen-year-old white farm girl in Groveland, Florida and were convicted by an all-white jury. (Since the turn of the century, blacks had been disfranchised in the state and suppressed by Jim Crow laws.) Attorney Thurgood Marshall, then the special counsel with the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, represented the Groveland Boys, taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately overturned the guilty verdicts.

In reaction to the Court's decision, the Ku Klux Klan led to a wave of violence and murder in central Florida. Two of the four defendants were shot, one fatally. A NAACP colleague was murdered. Marshall continued with the retrial under constant death threats.

During his research, King gained access to the FBI's extensive and unredacted files from the case, which had been sealed for 60 years. He was also granted permission to view the Legal Defense Fund's files from the Groveland case.


The Pulitzer Prize cited this book as "a richly detailed chronicle of racial injustice in the Florida town of Groveland in 1949, involving four black men falsely accused of rape and drawing a civil rights crusader, and eventual Supreme Court justice, into the legal battle."[1] Thomas Friedman of The New York Times called it "must-read, cannot-put-down history" and Pulitzer-winning novelist Junot Diaz called it "superb". Devil in the Grove has also been nominated for The Chautauqua Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime.

Lionsgate acquired the film rights in 2013 and deemed the project as "high priority".[9]

Beneath a Ruthless SunEdit

With the subtitle, A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found, King's third book was published by Riverhead Books in April 2018.[10]


  1. ^ a b c "The 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners: General Nonfiction". The Pulitzer Prizes. 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2013. With short biography and publisher's description.
  2. ^ [1].
  3. ^ [2].
  4. ^ "Making a Name by Uncovering a Lost Case". The New York Times. 2008. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  5. ^ Gilbert King, "The Two Executions Of Willie Francis", Washington Post, 19 July 2006, accessed 28 December 2014
  6. ^ "Gilbert King". NPR Books ( Retrieved August 31, 2013. One entry dated April 14, 2008.
  7. ^ "Booklist Review: The Execution of Willie Francis {...}". Booklist ( 2008. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  8. ^ "The execution of Willie Francis". Library Journal. February 1, 2008. Retrieved August 31, 2013. Archived at
  9. ^ Mike Fleming, Jr. (June 17, 2013). "Lionsgate Acquires Pulitzer Prize Winner 'Devil In The Grove'; Seminal Civil Rights Case For Thurgood Marshall". Deadline Hollywood ( Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  10. ^ "The Best Reviewed Books of the Week - 4-27-2018". Literary Hub. Retrieved 27 April 2018.

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