In 1945, a young African-American man from Laurel, Mississippi, was sentenced to death for allegedly raping Willette Hawkins, a white housewife. The case was barely noticed until Bella Abzug, a young New York labor lawyer, was hired to oversee Willie McGee's appeal. Together with William Patterson, a dedicated black reformer, Abzug risked her life to plead the case. "Free Willie McGee" became an international rallying cry, with supporters flooding President Truman's White House and the U.S. Supreme Court with clemency pleas and famous Americans - including William Faulkner, Albert Einstein, and Norman Mailer - speaking out on McGee's behalf. By 1951, millions worldwide were convinced of McGee's innocence - even though there were serious questions about his claim that the truth involved a secret love affair.
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