Jason Morgan Ward, Southern Spaces

“Place matters in Murder on Shades Mountain, and Morrison vividly reconstructs the social geography of Jim Crow Birmingham in the book's opening sections. ... As Morrison points out, the rigidly segregated geography of Jim Crow Birmingham fueled doubts about the nature of the attack and the identity of the attacker. The notion that a black man would roam around this white enclave, in broad daylight and armed with a loaded gun, defied the spatial logic of segregation.”

Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"In this passionate account of Jim Crow–era injustice, educator and activist Morrison exposes how courtrooms 'could function like lynch mobs when the defendant was black.'... Morrison, who is white, shares this painful story with clarity and compassion, emphasizing how much has changed since the 1930s, how much white people need to 'critically interrogate' the past, and how much 'remains to be done' in the fight for justice." — Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)


Karl Helicher, Foreword Reviews

"The author deserves praise for identifying Peterson’s trial as an important precursor to the 1960s civil rights movement. Audiences will be enthralled and angered by this all-too-familiar account of a criminal justice system that was and remains biased against black Americans." — Karl Helicher, Foreword Reviews


Chad E. Statler, Library Journal

"Morrison digs deeply into period newspapers and archives to uncover this story of injustice long overshadowed by the more famous Scottsboro Boys trial. A thoughtful look into a tale of prejudice and stolen justice that will find many readers who are interested in African American history, the early civil rights movement, and Southern history." — Chad E. Statler, Library Journal


Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books

" This is an excellent and engaging study. The author does a fine job of seeking out black perspectives, and in examining the efforts of the many black activists, attorneys, and newspaper editors who pursued justice for black Birmingham."


Don Noble, Alabama Public Radio

"A straightforward, thoroughly researched nonfiction account of yet another disgraceful episode in Alabama racial history."  — Don Noble, Alabama Public Radio


Joyce Hollyday, Radical Discipleship

"Murder on Shades Mountain ends, as it begins, with a call to each of us to do our own work. In the afterword, written in the form of a letter to her late father, Melanie states the truth: 'The demonization and criminalization of black men remains a national disgrace. Eighty-five years after Willie Peterson was arrested on a Birmingham street corner, innocent black men throughout the nation continue to be racially profiled, stopped and frisked, thrown to the ground, choked, shot, torn from their families, locked behind bars, and sentenced to die…So much work remains to be done.' Indeed. We need each other, the power of painful memory, and the transformative stories of our lives to keep at it.” — Joyce Hollyday, Radical Discipleship


Bill Castanier, Lansing City Pulse

"Morrison’s book is an ultimate tribute to a man who is seldom mentioned in the Civil Rights Movement, but was a true civil rights hero and who despite torture and mental cruelty always proclaimed his innocence." — Bill Castanier, Lansing City Pulse.


Richard T. Andrews, The Real Deal

"In addition to being a compelling read, Murder on Shades Mountain provides a ground level portrait of the workings of structural racism, an insightful critique of white savior stories, and offers us valuable vignettes of the brilliant and legendary attorney Charles Hamilton Houston, and such other key historical figures as the Scottsboro Boys and Walter White." — Richard T. Andrews, The Real Deal


Joyce Hollyday, Hospitality

"Though Melanie framed her book around her father, to her credit it is not a story about him. Or about Nell Williams and her family. It is the story of Willie Peterson. It is a detailed, meticulously researched, riveting account of the horrific injustice he suffered. Murder on Shades Mountain ends as it begins, with a call to each of us to do our own work."

Jasmine Baxter, The Alabamian

“Dr. Kathryn King, coalition coleader of Montevallo’s ongoing Community Remembrance Project, encapsulated this moment best: ‘Morrison’s work is inspirational for anyone with eyes to see, ears to hear. Her passion for social justice, an honesty that comes from long self-examination, the courage to share vulnerable parts of herself – these qualities give her a credibility that is pretty unusual, I think. I noticed that Black students were eager to talk with her; she seemed to speak truth to them. She spoke truth to me, too.’”

Signing books at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, N.C.

Signing books at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, N.C.




Foreword Reviews interview

Karl Helicher of Foreword Reviews interviews Melanie S. Morrison about Murder on Shades Mountain (March 15, 2018).


North Carolina Public Radio Interview

Frank Stasio, host of North Carolina Public Radio’s “The State of Things,” talks with Melanie S. Morrison about her new book, Murder on Shades Mountain (May 3, 2018).