Who is Chauncey Bailey? Have you ever heard of him? Well Thomas Peele’s Killing The Messenger will tell you exactly why you should know him.
Chauncey Bailey was an American journalist assassinated on American soil because of a story he pursued about a bakery going into bankruptcy. A BAKERY’S BANKRUPTCY? That doesn’t sound like something for which you should kill or die. Chauncey Bailey’s assassination was about much more than that.
His murder was an assault on our First Amendment. His story could have begun the process of exposing a cult in Oakland, CA run by an insatiable pedophile (he molested and raped his own kids, y’all), that terrorized a community, while defaulting on tax-payer backed loans, defrauding the welfare system and exploiting some of our country’s most disenfranchised, dangerous and vulnerable people. That seemingly innocuous bakery was the base for the cult. That cult racked up quite the crime resume.
This story begins in the 1920’s and follows the rise of the Nation of Islam; paints a picture of a sect in North Oakland that decided to stand alone; and ends with the prosecution of Bailey’s assassins.
Bailey was shot execution style on an Oakland street in 2007. This is before President Donald Trump posted tweets featuring video of him beating up CNN because he didn’t like their coverage. This is before the 2016 election exposed just how much hate and ignorance drove a wedge between Americans. Yet, if we had paid more attention to Bailey we could have seen 2016 coming.
Bailey’s murder should have been front page on every paper and the lead story on every evening newscast, a la Daniel Pearl (check out the Angelina Jolie movie) in my opinion. Sure, one journalist called, “Bailey’s murder an assault on the bedrock principle of free press, the American way of life.” But it wasn’t covered that way. One woman said, “that the killing didn’t get as much media attention as it would have if Bailey had been a white reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper.”
Bailey’s assasination and the decades leading up to it expose the impact of America’s attempt to exclude African-Americans from mainstream freedoms; the blind-eye politicians, courts and police use when it benefits them; and how being disenfranchised can leave all people vulnerable to unspeakable evils disguised as acceptance. (Think David Koresh and the Branch Dividians or Jim Jones and The People’s Temple)
Simply put: this book is an eye-opening history lesson and a true crime story far better than any fiction John Grisham and his contemporaries could dream up.