Monday, February 27, 2012

Book It - Blood Done Sign My Name

This week’s featured book:

Blood Done Sign My Name
Author: Timothy B. Tyson


"Daddy and Roger and 'em shot 'em a nigger."

Those words, whispered to ten-year-old Tim Tyson by one of his playmates in the late spring of 1970, heralded a firestorm that would forever transform the small tobacco market town of Oxford, North Carolina.

On May 11, 1970, Henry Marrow, a 23-year-old black veteran, walked into a crossroads store owned by Robert Teel, a rough man with a criminal record and ties to the Ku Klux Klan, and came out running. Teel and two of his sons chased Marrow, beat him unmercifully, and killed him in public as he pleaded for his life. In the words of a local prosecutor: "They shot him like you or I would kill a snake."

Like many small Southern towns, Oxford had barely been touched by the civil rights movement. But in the wake of the killing, young African Americans took to the streets. While lawyers battled in the courthouse, the Klan raged in the shadows and black Vietnam veterans torched the town’s tobacco warehouses. Tyson’s father, the pastor of Oxford’s all-white Methodist church, urged the town to come to terms with its bloody racial history. In the end, however, the Tyson family was forced to move away.

Tim Tyson’s riveting narrative of that fiery summer brings gritty blues truth, soaring gospel vision, and down-home humor to a shocking episode of our history. Like To Kill a Mockingbird, Blood Done Sign My Name is a classic portrait of an unforgettable time and place.

My Comments:

Written by a professor of African-American studies, this is a candid and engaging autobiographical story about the racial struggles, which often prompted vileness and violence on all sides, in a segregated southern town where white supremacy ruled, unapologetically, after the Civil Rights Act.

This book, which goes far beyond being a story about a racist murder, is an amazing journey through racial attitudes and beliefs. You will laugh and you will cry, but most of all, you'll be haunted by the view of race in the 1960s and 70s that is not commonly portrayed. This powerful book includes historical truths that we’d rather forget, truths that still bear repeating, over and over again, so we may learn from them.


  1. I don't know if I could read this book - these kinds of subjects (any kind of injustice) make me crazy. That's probably why I gravitate towards fantasy/sci-fi. I agree with your statement that these truths bear repeating.

    1. That's what I always think whenever I'm about to start a book like this. But then I read it and I fell...well..enlightened, I suppose. It's almost like all these dark things in history have been kept hidden and I'm finally learning the truth. People have suffered (and continue to suffer) horrible things and I feel like I owe it to them to hear their story. This book wasn't that bad but it does make you angry at times for the thought of how ignorant, cruel and prejudice people can be.

  2. Wow, it sounds fabulous book, but also like a very hard read. My girls and I just finished studying the Civil War and I've spent a lot of time reading about it, and also what came next. It's crazy to think that by 1970 this kind of thing was still going on, it's really so much closer to our past than we'd like to believe.

    1. It is a difficult read in some ways, but the writer also adds in some humour to lighten it up. I really enjoyed this book. Apparently, a movie was made out of it, but I haven't seen it.

  3. I like books that have an impact on me and I just know this one would. I'll put it on my list. My husband usually finds me sobbing away in my chair. He says Why torture youself? But to me, it's important to bear witness and reading these books does just that for me.

    1. I'm the same way. I need to bear witness, as well. People have suffered and someone has to hear their stories. Why not me?