Once in a while, a book will touch me deeply. It might be the subject, or the language or the memories it evokes. It was all of these, and more, that make Blood Done Sign My Name such a book. Author Timothy Tyson and I have a few things in common. We are the same age. We both were raised in North Carolina during a very tumultuous time. We both had parents who were open minded and taught us to treat all our neighbors, of all races, with respect. We both had mothers who taught us a love of reading. There the similarities end, but that was enough to make his story very personal for me.
Blood Done Sign My Name is the horrifying, true story of the murder of Henry Marrow, a twenty-three year old black veteran. The murder sparked violence throughout the small community of Oxford, North Carolina. The mayhem eventually touched the very heart of the community’s economy, with the burning of the town’s tobacco warehouses. Tyson’s father, the pastor of Oxford’s all white Methodist church, urged the town to find peace and face its racial past. Because of his courageous voice, the family was forced to leave Oxford.
Two things about this were surprising for me. That it happened in 1970, and that I had never heard of these events, despite having a strong background in history.
Tyson does a masterful job of making this tragic story a fabulous book. He infuses it with warmth, compassion, and at times humor. It is a page turner. But at times I had to put it down catch my breath.
A movie version of Blood Done Sign My Name was released earlier this year. I haven’t seen it yet, but it is certainly on my list.
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