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Book Club Kits: Blood Done Sign my Name

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Timothy B. Tyson

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Book Summary

“Daddy and Roger and ’em shot ’em a nigger.” Those words, whispered to ten-year-old Tim Tyson by a playmate, heralded a storm that would forever transform the tobacco market town of Oxford, North Carolina.

On May 11, 1970, Henry Marrow, a twenty-three-year-old black veteran, walked into a crossroads store owned by Robert Teel and came out running. Teel and two of his sons chased and beat Marrow, then killed him in public as he pleaded for his life.

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.

Read an excerpt from the book.

Discussion Questions

  • Tim Tyson says (page 319), "The future of our country depends upon an honest confrontation with our own history." What do you think of this idea?

  • What steps, if any, do you think are needed for reconciliation in the community of Oxford? In North Carolina? In the United States?

  • How does Tyson's story of North Carolina compare with what you know about the Civil Rights Movement? What else would you like to learn?

  • What is the relationship between social class and racial attitudes among white southerners? How did the histories and values of the Teel, Tyson, and Chavis families shape their views of the world and of each other?

  • Why is it important that the author points out that his family "was as Southern as fried okra and sweet tea?" What does being Southern mean to him, and to you? How does the fact that Tim Tyson is white affect your reaction to the story?

  • What impact did the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Vietnam War, and religion have on life and race relations in Oxford? What does the book tell us about the politics and culture of 1960s and 1970s?

  • Why did some of the persons in the book commit acts of political violence, such as the burning of the Oxford tobacco warehouses? Was it understandable? Is there any similarity between these people and the colonists who participated in the Boston Tea Party?

  • While the book centers on black/white tension, how does it apply to other kinds of racial and ethnic tensions in North Carolina and elsewhere?

  • Tyson challenges each of us to examine our own conscience. How do you decide when it is time to speak out or to stay silent? How do you decide that speaking out is worth the risk? How and when do you decide to act or not to act? What is your duty when you see injustice?
  • Although Tyson's experiences center on the dynamics of race, Blood Done Sign My Name also tells the story of how a young person's goals become shaped by life events. How do our experiences ultimately inform our future?

The Blood Done Sign My Name Movie