C. Arthur Ellis, Jr., PhD
Gadfly Publishing LLC (2015)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (8/17)
Prior to reading “Hall of Mirrors” by C. Arthur Ellis, Jr., I was unfamiliar with the Ruby McCollum case. The author’s presentation of information about this case intrigued me enough to seek more information about what happened when Ruby McCollum was tried for murdering Senator/Dr. C. Leroy Adams, who was in an adulterous relationship with her. The role in his relationship with her ranged from lover to accused rapist. This case was very complex. Dr. Ellis’s writings about this case highlight the complexity.
First of all, Ellis was very familiar with the people involved in this situation. Secondly, he was discouraged when reading books written by people who authored revisionist texts in which they rewrote Ruby’s story by creating their own historical events. Dr. Ellis employs a great deal of critical thinking skills to analyze how perceptions can be convoluted when one creates their own history. He discusses how it is critical that we look at the historical background of what was going on at that time in history.
In Ruby’s case, she was a wealthy black woman who at the end of the day, still had no rights. This was right in line with how things were for women and especially women of color. As a reader who was not present during that time, it is hard not to get emotionally overwhelmed by how she was treated. It makes her situation seems excessively worse than others, because I am not looking at how it was for all women at that time. I am instead comparing what happened to her, from a perspective of how things are done today, not in 1952. Even though things are still not perfect for women of color today, they are much better than from the 1950s.
This illustrates Dr. Ellis’s discussion of “Presentist Bias.” He also does an in-depth discussion of “Confirmation Bias,” and how it had an impact on Ruby’s case. By reading about these topics in regard to a real life case, it helped me to think about how I need to keep these in mind when reading about other events that did not take place in my presence. While I found this book to be extremely interesting in regards to Ruby’s story, I also felt that the critical thinking skill used in this book will help other readers when processing non-fiction, especially in the case of historical events.
“Hall of Mirrors” by C. Arthur Ellis, Jr., is highly recommended reading, especially for people who enjoy reading true crime non-fiction. I also think that professors of critical thinking courses should take a good look at this text and consider adding it to recommended reading texts for their courses. Very valuable information is contained within these pages which will help readers critically analyze other non-fiction works.