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University of Texas professor Kali Nicole Gross has a homicidal maniac as her muse — and that led her to write “Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America.”
BY Charles Ealy | PUBLICATION My Statesman
Gross, a professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, came across the story of Tabbs while writing her 2006 book, “Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880-1910,” which reconstructs black women’s crimes and how they were covered in the press. The book also explores how the ambitions and frustrations of marginalized women played into the commission of these crimes.
“As soon as I read about the Tabbs case, I knew it deserved its own monograph,” she says. “I had a little bit about it in my first book, but I always knew this story deserved its own book. I was enthralled the minute I laid eyes on some of the newspaper coverage.”
As Gross puts it, Tabbs “was very good at being very bad.”
Gross says she didn’t set out to focus on crime when she was going to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. The native New Yorker says she “was going to look into black women’s entrepreneurship, black women with hair salons and other businesses. … But I had a passion for social justice and didn’t want to be removed from social concerns. So some friends and I volunteered to teach a four-hour seminar once a week at the State Correctional Institution in Muncy, three hours outside Philadelphia.”
AUTHOR & PROFESSOR – African American Studies at Wesleyan University
Kali Nicole Gross is a Professor of African American Studies at Wesleyan University. Her research concentrates on black women’s experiences in the United States criminal justice system between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
She is author of the award-winning book, Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880-1910, and the newly released, Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America. Dr. Gross’s writing frequently explores how historical legacies of race, gender, and justice shape mass incarceration today. Her short essays and opinion pieces have been featured in BBC News, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Root, Warscapes, Ebony, Truthout, New Black Man (In Exile), The American Prospect, and Jet.
Dr. Gross has taught a range of students from those in housing projects in New York City to prisoners at the State Correctional Institution-SCI Muncy to students at colleges and universities across the country.
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