Max Geier, the author of The Color of Night: Race, Railroaders and Murder in the Wartime West, published by OSU Press, will talk about his book, the controversial murder trial that it covers, answer questions and do a book-signing on Wednesday, February 17. The event is at 5:00-6:30 p.m. on the Valley Library’s fifth floor in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center Reading Room. Light refreshments will be served.
In conjunction with the book about a train worker, the event will begin with a short presentation about an oral history collection at the Valley Library of recordings of African American porters who worked on trains on the West Coast.
About the book, The Color of Night
On a cold January night in 1943, Martha James was murdered on a train near Albany, Oregon. She was white, southern and newly-married to a Navy pilot. Despite inconsistent and contradictory eyewitness accounts, a young black cook on the train named Robert Folkes was charged with the crime. The ensuing investigation and sensational murder trial involving “Oregon’s murdered war bride” captured national attention during a period of intense wartime fervor and extensive black domestic migration. Folkes’s trial and controversial conviction — resulting in his execution by the state of Oregon — reshaped how Oregonians and others in the West thought about race, class and privilege.
The investigation, trial and conviction of Robert Folkes galvanized civil rights activists, labor organizers and community leaders into challenging the flawed judicial process and ultimately the death penalty in Oregon. The Color of Night will appeal to true crime aficionados and anyone interested in the history of race and labor relations, working conditions, community priorities, and attitudes toward the death penalty in the first half of the 20th century.