Summer Reading Selection

Just Mercy book coverThis summer, new students to Goucher College will read Just Mercy, a work of nonfiction by Bryan Stevenson. The book is Goucher's 2017 summer reading assignment for first-year and transfer students.

In the 1980s, Stevenson is a lawyer at a nonprofit law center in Alabama who works on the cases of incarcerated people sentenced to death row. He recounts the story of Walter McMillian, a black business owner with no criminal history who has been arrested for killing a white woman named Ronda Morrison. The only evidence is the testimony of a dubious witness. McMillian is illegally put on death row before the case has gone to trial.

Although there is no proof of guilt and plenty of evidence of innocence, at the end of his trial, McMillian is found guilty.

In telling the story of McMillian, Stevenson provides important context for the arrest and trial, detailing how poor black men have been treated by the police and by the court system in Alabama. He also examines the way juveniles, former military, and people with mental illness are mistreated by the criminal justice system, and how black men disproportionally receive the death penalty.

Stevenson takes on McMillian's case. After six years on death row, and many battles in the court room, McMillian is freed in 1993. Many others who were not given a fair trial remain in prison.

Just Mercy is an incisive and thorough look at the prison industrial complex and the way it targets the most vulnerable members of society. Stevenson writes that the opposite of poverty is justice, and that if we simply hide and punish the broken, we ourselves become broken. Stevenson concludes in his heartfelt book that "there is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity."

Please visit the Just Mercy website for more information.