Silencing Black Women in the White Courtroom

By Denise Lynn | Black Perspectives

On August 3, 1952, Ruby McCollum walked into Dr. C. LeRoy Adams’s medical practice in Live Oak, Florida and shot and killed the doctor. Prosecutors at Ruby’s trial contended that she killed him over a disputed medical bill and because she was his spurned ex-lover. Ruby’s defense attorney insisted it was self-defense. Ruby was promptly tried for the murder by a judge who served as a pallbearer at the doctor’s funeral and a jury with the doctor’s former patients on it. She was found guilty and sentenced to death in the electric chair. The Live Oak community was ready to move on from the case and let Ruby pay for her crime. However, Zora Neale Hurston, novelist and reporter hired by the Pittsburgh Courier to cover the story, was disturbed by Ruby’s case. In particular, she was concerned that the judge and state attorney made sure that Ruby’s testimony was brief, and that the judge issued an order preventing her from speaking to reporters. Ruby McCollum was literally silenced during and after her trial.

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