By Kali Nicole Gross
Presently after a dismembered torso was once came across by means of a pond outdoor Philadelphia in 1887, investigators homed in on suspects: Hannah Mary Tabbs, a married, working-class, black girl, and George Wilson, a former neighbor whom Tabbs implicated after her arrest.
As information surrounding the surprising case emerged, either the crime and resulting trial-which spanned a number of months-were featured within the nationwide press. The trial introduced another way taboo topics reminiscent of illicit intercourse, adultery, and household violence within the black neighborhood to public cognizance. even as, the combined race of the sufferer and one among his assailants exacerbated anxieties over the purity of whiteness within the post-Reconstruction period.
In Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso, historian Kali Nicole Gross makes use of detectives' notes, trial and legal documents, neighborhood newspapers, and different archival records to reconstruct this ghastly whodunit crime in all its scandalous element. In doing so, she offers the crime context via interpreting it opposed to broader proof of police remedy of black suspects and violence in the black neighborhood.
A interesting paintings of historic game, Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso is certain to captivate somebody drawn to real crime, adulterous love triangles long past unsuitable, and the racially unstable international of post-Reconstruction Philadelphia.
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Additional info for Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America
Despite unanswered questions and friction between the Philadel phia and Eddington authorities, Chief Kelly told reporters that he felt confident that he would have a confession within twenty-four hours. 50 After a night in confinement during which she was denied contact with anyone except the detectives on the case, Hannah Mary Tabbs talked. Accounts after her night in custody described her as worn and haggard, somehow thinner looking, and reporters noted that her coat had been torn at the sleeve.
51 No account explains exactly what occurred in custody as white investigators interrogated Tabbs, but existing evidence suggests that, in the service of justice, Philadelphia authorities could be brutal. Physical violence had long been regarded as a “normal part of police work,” and while officers risked public rebuke if they deigned to attack one of the “respectable classes,” those considered to be “lower-class criminals” were fair game. Working-class whites and people of color in general could be especially vulnerable.
Rather than accepting Swain’s offer, the woman strenuously objected, hurriedly responding, “Oh, no, no. ”44 The story Swain recounted led Constable Jackson to follow up with the station agent on duty on the night in question. The curious woman Conductor Swain described also left a lasting impression on Mrs. Josie Knight, the Eddington station agent. Knight told Constable Jackson that the odd woman’s hand trembled as she sought to redeem the excess ticket. 45 But she left quite a trail for the constable to follow.