The Swift and Merciless Execution of Corrine Sykes
When a wealthy white woman turned up dead in 1944, Philadelphia wasted no time sending her black maid to the electric chair. But did anyone care about the truth?
Illustrations by Joe Gough | Edited by W. M. Akers
The car pulled away from the curb, gliding through the narrow cobbled streets. A few gas lights were starting to come on, illuminating the listing row houses huddled together. On the barren streets, patches of dirty snow remained. As they drove north, the streets became wider and leafier, leaving Philadelphia’s crowded city center behind.
“Thanks for taking me,” Corrine Sykes murmured as she straightened her skirt over her legs. She was starting her first day of work as a maid and was surprised to have gotten the job. As the youngest child in a family of three daughters, with overworked and underpaid parents who came north during the Great Migration looking for a better life only to be sorely disappointed, Sykes never thought she’d amount to anything. At 20 years old, she had been told her whole life that she was a simpleton, a truant, a good-for-nothing.
“You looking nice, baby,” her 39-year-old bootlegger boyfriend, Jaycee Kelly, said,…