Blood at the Root by Patrick Phillips
A Racial Cleansing in America

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An impressive reckoning with a shameful piece of the past that “most natives of Forsyth would prefer to leave…scattered in the state’s dusty archives or safely hidden in plain sight.”
-Kirkus

Synopsis

A gripping tale of racial cleansing in Forsyth County, Georgia, and a harrowing testament to the deep roots of racial violence 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.

 

About Patrick Phillips

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PATRICK PHILLIPS is the author of two poetry collections, Boy and Chattahoochee, which won the 2005 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. His honors include both Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Discovery / The Nation Prize from the 92nd Street Y, and the Translation Prize of the American-Scandinavian Foundation. He lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Drew University.
 
Published September 20, 2016 by W. W. Norton & Company. 314 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Blood at the Root
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jun 08 2016

An impressive reckoning with a shameful piece of the past that “most natives of Forsyth would prefer to leave…scattered in the state’s dusty archives or safely hidden in plain sight.”

Read Full Review of Blood at the Root: A Racial C... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Carol Anderson on Sep 28 2016

“Blood at the Root” thus meticulously and elegantly reveals the power of white supremacy in its many guises — be it active, complicit or complacent; rural or suburban — to distort and destroy, not only lives and accomplishments, but historical memory...

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Jennifer Senior on Sep 14 2016

But this rookie mistake does not, ultimately, detract from the moral force of “Blood at the Root” or even how involving it is.

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