By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners

Wednesday September 21, 2022

PORTSMOUTH, NH — On Tuesday, October 4 at 7pm, legal scholar and founding director of Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, Margaret A. Burnham comes to The Portsmouth, NH Music Hall Lounge as part of the Talks series. She will discuss her book, BY HANDS KNOW KNOWN, an in-depth investigation into Jim Crow era violence, the legal systems that sustained it, and its enduring legacy in 21st century America.

The 7 pm event includes an author discussion moderated by Joanna Kelley, Portsmouth’s Assistant Mayor, followed by an audience Q&A on Tuesday, October 4 at 7pm at The Music Hall Lounge 131 Congress Street Portsmouth, NH

Margaret A. Burnham is the founding director of Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, which investigates racial violence in the Jim Crow era and other historical failures of the criminal justice system. Burnham has enjoyed a long and varied career as a civil rights lawyer, defense attorney, judge, and professor of law. In 2010, she headed a team in a landmark case that settled a federal lawsuit in which Mississippi law enforcement officials were accused of assisting Klansmen in the 1964 kidnapping, torture, and murder of two nineteen-year-olds, Henry Dee and Charles Eddie Moore. Burnham was also nominated by President Biden and confirmed this year by the US Senate to serve on the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board. She lives in Boston.

Tickets: The ticket package for Talks: Margaret Burnham with BY HANDS NOW KNOWN, on Tuesday, October 4, at 7pm is $47. Ticket Package includes a signed copy of BY HANDS NOW KNOWN ($30, hardcover), reserved seat, beverage, author discussion, audience Q+A, and post-show meet-and-greet. Tickets can be purchased online at, over the phone at 603.436.2400, or in person at the B2W Box Office at the Historic Theater, 28 Chestnut Street. 

About Talks

In this Age of Participation, The Music Hall has expanded its programming to focus on issues critical to our time. The Talks series, formerly named Innovation + Leadership, was first launched to serve our local business community, bringing together the best and the brightest in technology. The series has since broadened to showcase opinion leaders, authors and all variety of educators, and to serve audiences from a tri-state region and beyond—all who are interested in bettering the worlds they live in, at work and at home, locally and around the world. These lively and informative conversations feature experts in their field sharing experiences and providing participants practical tools for making meaningful advances in their lives. From demonstrations in the art of all things digital to special forums featuring regional and global leaders in sustainability, from book discussion-demonstrations on the positive effect of meditation to awareness-raising events led by today’s champions in philanthropy, feminism, and family matters, each Talks event is memorable and impactful. The Music Hall is committed to community building and personal flourishing. Our Talks series delivers on that commitment.

“Margaret A. Burnham offers a powerful, moving, and groundbreaking account of the interconnections between race, law, and citizenship in US history.” Keisha N. Blain, coeditor of Four Hundred Souls

The Music Hall is an active and vital cultural center in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, dedicated to the advancement of the tri-state region’s cultural life through the performing arts, literature, and education. A community-supported 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, it presents entertainment from around the world and around the corner—the greatest musicians, writers, and performers of the time, extraordinary films, and award-winning documentaries. Its 600 yearly events delight an annual audience of 130,000 (including 20,000 children) in two theaters—an 1878 Victorian-era Historic Theater and the modern and intimate Lounge venue. The Music Hall was recently named Editors’ Choice “Best All-Around Entertainment” by Yankee Magazine and is a designated “American Treasure for the Arts.” Through innovative community partnerships, it subsidizes thousands of tickets each year to make the arts accessible to all. The Music Hall is community-oriented and committed to helping the Seacoast region flourish.

Series Sponsors: Atlantic Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine

Interconnections Presenting Sponsor: Kennebunk Savings

Media Partner: New Hampshire Public Radio

Lead Sponsor: B2W Software

Season Sponsors: Carey & Giampa Realtors; JGroup Hospitality; Portwalk Place

Contributing Partner: The University of New Hampshire


“Rigorously delineated, passionately argued, Margaret A. Burnham’s book offers us heart-wrenching cases.… But Burnham goes further, asking us to finally acknowledge the history of ever-present resistance, even under the most insurmountable conditions, and to consider what justice might mean today.” – Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz

“Masterfully explores how everyday acts of violence fundamentally shaped Jim Crow during the twentieth century. With meticulous and compelling new research, Margaret A. Burnham offers a powerful, moving, and groundbreaking account of the interconnections between race, law, and citizenship in US history.”– Keisha N. Blain, coeditor of the number-one New York Times bestseller Four Hundred Souls and award-winning author of Until I Am Free

“[This] narratively lively yet stunningly exhaustive interrogation of Jim Crow laws retained from slavery, misconstrued after Reconstruction, and nationalized during Plessy v. Ferguson, ought to become indispensable to all legal and civil rights considerations, and the cause célèbre of our time—reparations.” – David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of W. E. B. Du Bois

“Defying national suppression and indifference, By Hands Now Known vividly conveys the stories of those whose lives were destroyed by previously undocumented racial violence between 1920 and 1960.… Burnham, drawing on a painstakingly constructed database, launches a vital and restorative reckoning with the reprehensible devastation of lives, communities, justice, and memory.” – Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University, and author of When Should Law Forgive?

“A vitally important history.… Burnham’s meticulous unpacking–of newspaper accounts, coroners’ reports, and interviews with surviving witnesses, family members, and clergy–is searing, unforgettable, and profoundly moving.” — Patricia J. Williams, author of The Alchemy of Race and Rights and Giving a Damn

“If you truly want to understand why police and vigilantes who kill Black people are rarely held to account, you must read this extraordinary book.… By far the most sobering and most illuminating work I have ever read on the long history of state-sanctioned racial violence in the US.”– Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Race Rebels

“Burnham addresses the enormous violence necessary to sustain Jim Crow through…the lives destroyed by the brutal regime of separate but equal.… In reckoning with the impact of this history on the present, Burnham asks how we might undo or redress this legacy of violence. It is timely and essential reading.”—Saidiya Hartman, author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

“Searing… An essential reckoning with America’s history of racial violence.” – Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“Uncovers the hidden and unknown victims of Jim Crow violence… Readers interested in the long history of the civil rights struggle should definitely read this.”– Library Journal, starred review

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