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Myth v. Reality in the Burt Murder and Harvey Lynching
by Craig L. Foster

Published In Periodical:
Journal of the West 43.4 (Fall 2004): 49-57


Genre:  Criticism
Foster examines the events surrounding the 1883 murder of Marshall Andrew Burt and the subsequent lynching of Sam Joe Harvey in Salt Lake City. After detailing the account given of the event in Bound for Canaan, the second volume in the historical-fiction trilogy Standing on the Promises, Foster suggests that this incident has typically been dramatized and sensationalized by historians and writers. While the authors of the trilogy, which focuses on the place of African Americans in early Mormon history, portray the murder and lynching as the result of racial tensions, and others have painted it as a demonstration of religious conflict, Foster suggests that it was most likely the passionate reaction of a crowd to a blatantly criminal act. A comparison of lynchings throughout the nation in the late 1800s corroborates this conclusion. While pointing out that 'Bound for Canaan' and other works of historical fiction have obvious errors and exaggerations, Foster concedes that they are nevertheless useful in bringing little-known historical events to light in the public consciousness.

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