So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Blood Done Sign My Name

This book is based on a racially-motivated murder in Oxford, NC in May of 1970. A white man and his two sons beat and shot a black man because they claimed he talked disrespectfully to the white wife of one of the sons. Despite eye-witnesses, the men were not convicted. Timothy Tyson was a friend of the younger brother of the murderers and the 10-year old son of a liberal white Oxford Methodist minister at the time of the shooting. He is now a professor in African-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He first told this story in his Duke University master's thesis: Burning for Freedom: White Terror and Plack Power in Oxford, North Carolina. This book is much more than the facts behind a murder. It lays out the events of the murder in two settings. The first is his one life as a son of a liberal minister growing up in North Carolina. The second is the context of race relations in the South since the beginning of slavery. White authors can only dimly understand the effects of racial prejudice on Black Southerners, but Dr. Tyson does a good job of laying out some of the events that created the segregated North Carolina that existed at the time of the Oxford murder. I found it a most profound statement of the effects of racism in North Carolina. One small incident stands out to me as a librarian in North Carolina. In researching his thesis and this book, Dr. Tyson sought out copies of the Oxford Public Ledger only to find the Oxford Public Library's microfilm copies for the era had mysteriously disappeared. The newspaper's own copies were also missing. He even claims that the North Carolina State Archives copies are missing and says: "Someone had gone to considerable lengths to destroy the paper trail" (Page 295).

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