Visiting the "three miles of pain" where the victim struggled to free himself as his body, bound by a log chain, smashed against rocks and asphalt on a deserted country road; viewing police photographs of Byrd's dismembered body; watching the smug expression on the face of his torturer—all made the reporter literally sick. King threw up daily during the trials, and her hair began falling out. She was plagued with nightmares. Still, she tried valiantly to look into the hearts of Byrd's assailants. She became friendly with Jasper's sheriff, a just soul, and other lawmen she would have automatically avoided as a girl growing up in the Deep South. She learned about prison hate groups in a facility called Beto 1, where two of the young men were held before the crime—one of many "racial hotbeds" that, King insists, spawn the violence they are meant to curb. She doesn't see an end to racism in America, but she is keeping her eyes wide open, like her mind.
If a change is coming, it is happening slowly, at places like St. John Baptist Church in Dixiana, South Carolina. After the black church had been repeatedly torched and vandalized, a parishioner, Barbara Simmons, and her white friend Ammie Murray launched a rebuilding campaign that fired the imaginations—and loosened the purse strings—of people around the world. Death threats terrified the two women, but they shared their strengths ("We season each other, just like salt and pepper," Barbara would quip to Ammie), and their example united a shaken community. Standing on Holy Ground: A Triumph over Hate Crime in the Deep South (St. Martin's), by Sandra E. Johnson, shows how faith, love and sheer bullheadedness may lose battle after battle against racism—and still win the war.