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Reviewed by Natasha Jackson for Readers' Favorite
On June 25, 1949, a man by the name of John William Campbell, along with a female companion, was arrested in Fayetteville, Arkansas for a crime both the police and prosecutors of this small town deemed “unfit to be named," namely, sodomy. In fact, Mr. Campbell was arrested more than once for the same crime, which sets the stage for A Crime Unfit To Be Named: The Prosecution of John William Campbell. This book chronicles his multiple arrests as well as the change in society that today makes this case a true travesty. Unlike traditional true crime books, Denele Campbell is fully aware that she is breaking the mold as this is a story where the crime really is a victimless one — at no time was Campbell accused of forcing his “victims” — and chronicles an overzealous criminal justice system intent on policing morals rather than laws.
Although true crime enthusiasts may wince at the structure of this story, Denele Campbell constructs the story of John William Campbell with surgical precision. It is important to A Crime Unfit To Be Named to understand the family and their prominence within Fayetteville, as well as the seeming progressive thinking exhibited in the decades leading up to Campbell’s arrest and prosecution. Since no actual crime took place, this story is focused more on the zealotry of the prosecutor’s office as well as the accepted social norms of the time, which Campbell violated by engaging in (unnatural) sexual acts with a black woman. Told through court transcripts, medical documents, and the author’s own research, any reader will find the tale of John William Campbell quite intriguing, never mind the money, resources, and time put forth to convict and imprison a man, not of sodomy as we understand it today and the way medical professionals understood it in 1949, but of engaging in oral sex.