Review by transgressingengineer
First off, thanks to ABW for the invite to blog over in her neck of the woods. I am a big fan of her blog and have been looking forward to the opportunity to contribute to her blog with a (hopefully) meaningful post.
About two years ago, I read a book that I consider to be one of the best on race that I have read: Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson (2004). The white author, for his masters project in graduate school, went back to his hometown in the South to investigate the circumstances around the public killing of a Black man, which occurred when he was ten years old. The man who was killed was a twenty-three year old veteran, Henry Marrow, and was “guilty” of talking to a white man’s daughter in the wrong way. This is not a pre-civil rights era story- it happened in Oxford, North Carolina on May 12, 1970. Tyson had heard about the murder from one of the white boys he used to chum around with- in fact it was that boy’s father who killed Henry Marrow. At the time, Tyson’s father was a Methodist minister in the town and was trying to work on racial relations. Tyson remembered this incident as a part of the racial crisis that was happening in the US and throughout his life and used these experiences to build his life’s work around one of understanding why things were as they were.
The book recaptures memories that Tyson had of this event in 1970 and other events that summer and blends it with the interviews and data gathering he did as a graduate student to gain deeper meaning of the racial tension in 1970 and the racial tension that still exists today. Tyson is able to capture the essence of white privilege and racial tension that existed pre-civil rights era and demonstrates how that white privilege and racial tension is still alive and flourishing today.
This book is memorable to me since it talks about lynching and racial fear not as a thing of the past, but as a very real horror that people of colored suffer from in our present day. It is a must read for whites that do not ‘get it’ in terms of white privilege and present day racial issues in the US. But mostly, it is an eloquent read that moved me to anger, joy, and at times, tears. You can bet that this will be a book that I give my boys to read when they get older.
For all those that think that race is something contained in our past, and for those who see how race affects our present… go read Blood Done Sign My Name.