This 2010 book is about a lynching that took place in my hometown of Salisbury, North Carolina, in 1906. In August of that year, three African American men were brutally executed by a lynch mob as they awaited trial for murder in the local jail. Unlike the typical lynching, this particular event received widespread coverage in the state and national press, largely due to the number of individuals victimized by the mob and the efforts of the state’s governor to have suspected perpetrators arrested and prosecuted. Writing Troubled Ground compelled me to think in novel ways about myself as a historian and about the disciplinary premises of the profession. In this rare instance, I was positioned both as insider—having been born and raised in Salisbury—and outsider—now residing far away from the site of the tragedy. Of course, there was a story here to be told about the racial politics of both remembering and forgetting such horrific events; however, this project also raised larger questions about my positionality as a historian and as a human being seemingly linked to and implicated in this dark past.
"Charlotte Talks" (WFAE) interview re: Troubled Ground
Praise for Troubled Ground
-"Claude A. Clegg III's beautifully written and well-designed case study of a triple lynching, Troubled Ground, has brought the army of historians who study this particular form of American violence back to their roots."
Journal of American History
-"...this is an outstanding contribution to the literature on lynching and mob violence at the turn of the twentieth century. Clegg has ensured that a terrible and important chapter in one town's history will not easily be forgotten."
American Historical Review
-"Clegg's 'Troubled Ground' shines a spotlight on a series of dark events that nonetheless contribute to the cultural fabric of North Carolina.... [It's] exhaustively researched and clearly a bittersweet endeavor for an author who still has ties to Salisbury."
-"A fine book, deeply researched and elegantly written, that tells us some very important things about the relationship between lynching and the modernizing state in the early twentieth century."
Florida Historical Quarterly
-"In this crisp and trenchant account of a North Carolina lynching that was at once tragically commonplace and surprisingly exceptional, Claude A. Clegg III deftly combines local history of the highest caliber with an impressive command of the latest scholarship on lynching and an eye for the broadest implications of his story."
W. Fitzhugh Brundage, author of The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory
-"It's a richly researched history of murder, criminal justice, and race relations as North Carolina entered the 20th century. [Clegg] goes beyond putting the events in the political and social context of the time.... Throughout he meditates on history and collective memory.... History might be more about forgetting than remembering, he seems to say."
Raleigh News & Record
-"As an historian, Clegg is a storyteller--and a fine one. The scholarship that produced Troubled Ground is thorough and impressive. The narrative is clear and engaging.... Careful and detailed case studies like the one offered by Clegg in Troubled Ground for Salisbury are extremely valuable. We need more of them for the many other southern communities that have similar histories to be revealed."
Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
-"The author's connection to the events described...adds an additional layer of interest to the work.... These moments of rumination are among the book's strongest, offering an accomplished historian's take on the challenges of writing about an event to which one feels personally connected. Clegg's investment in the Salisbury story never seems to get in the way of his scholarly posture. As background, however, it adds a layer of emotional intensity well suited to the work's larger subject matter."
Journal of Southern History