Public response to Brawley’s story was at first mostly sympathetic. Bill Cosby offered a $25,000 reward for information on the case, while Don King pledged $100,000 toward Brawley’s education. In December 1987, over one thousand people, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, marched through the streets of Newburgh, New York, in support of Brawley.
Brawley’s claims in the case captured headlines across the country. Public rallies were held denouncing the incident and racial tensions climbed. When civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, with attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, began handling Brawley’s publicity, the case quickly took on an explosive edge. At the height of the controversy in June 1988, a poll showed a gap of 34 percentage points between blacks (51%) and whites (85%) on the question of whether she was lying.
Sharpton, Maddox, and Mason generated a national media sensation.
It’s worthy pointing out that the Tawana Brawley case did not serve as the inspiration for Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, which had been published a few week’s earlier.
I’ve been kicking around the idea of Bonfire of the Vanities 30th anniversary book club in which we’d read about 40 pages per week for a couple of months, cutting about half of the book from the required reading. Let me know if you are interested.[Comment at Unz.com]