Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America
Forsyth County, Georgia, at the turn of the twentieth century was home to a large African American community that included ministers and teachers, farmers and field hands, tradesmen, servants, and children. Many black residents were poor sharecroppers, but others owned their own farms and the land on which they'd founded the county's thriving black churches.
But then in September of 1912, three young black laborers were accused of raping and murdering a white girl. One man was dragged from a jail cell and lynched on the town square, two teenagers were hung after a one-day trial, and soon bands of white "night riders" launched a coordinated campaign of arson and terror, driving all 1,098 black citizens out of the county. In the wake of the expulsions, whites harvested the crops and took over the livestock of their former neighbors, and quietly laid claim to "abandoned" land. The charred ruins of homes and churches disappeared into the weeds, until the people and places of black Forsyth were forgotten.
National Book Award finalist Patrick Phillips tells Forsyth's tragic story in vivid detail and traces its long history of racial violence all the way back to antebellum Georgia. Recalling his own childhood in the 1970s and '80s, Phillips sheds light on the communal crimes of his hometown and the violent means by which locals kept Forsyth "all white" well into the 1990s.
Blood at the Root is a sweeping American tale that spans the Cherokee removals of the 1830s, the hope and promise of Reconstruction, and the crushing injustice of Forsyth's racial cleansing. With bold storytelling and lyrical prose, Phillips breaks a century-long silence and uncovers a history of racial terrorism that continues to shape America in the twenty-first century.
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About the AuthorPatrick Phillips is an award-winning poet, translator, and professor. A Guggenheim and NEA Fellow, his poetry collection, Elegy for a Broken Machine, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Phillips lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Stanford University.
[M]eticulously and elegantly reveals the power of white supremacy...to distort and destroy, not only lives and accomplishments, but historical memory, the law, and basic human civility.--Carol Anderson (06/02/2016)
[H]umanizes its subjects and brims with detail....[G]raphic, unflinching, important.--Jennifer Senior (09/15/2016)
Deeply researched and crisply written, "Blood at the Root'' is an impressive and timely case study of the racial violence and historical amnesia that characterize much of American history. Phillips...is a gifted storyteller.-- (09/23/2016)
The burden of southern history lies not in what we know about the past but what we do not know. Patrick Phillips uncovers an important untold piece of history... What he reveals in this important book does not make this chilling piece of the past any easier to bear, but he brings it into sharper focus, which is long overdue.-- (06/08/2016)
Phillips brings a journalist's crisp perspective to this precise and disquieting account of a reprehensible and underreported chapter in America's racial history.-- (06/08/2016)