Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this outstanding personal history, Tyson, a professor of African-American studies who's white, unflinchingly examines the civil rights struggle in the South. The book focuses on the murder of a young black man, Henry Marrow, in 1970, a tragedy that dramatically widened the racial gap in the author's hometown of Oxford, N.C. Tyson portrays the killing and its aftermath from multiple perspectives, including that of his contemporary, 10-year-old self; his progressive Methodist pastor father, who strove to lead his parishioners to overcome their prejudices; members of the disempowered black community; one of the killers; and his older self, who comes to Oxford with a historian's eye. He also artfully interweaves the history of race relations in the South, carefully and convincingly rejecting less complex and self-serving versions ("violence and nonviolence were both more ethically complicated and more tightly intertwined than they appeared in most media accounts and history books"). A gifted writer, he celebrates a number of inspirational unsung heroes, ranging from his father to a respected elderly schoolteacher who spoke out at a crucial point to quash a white congregation's rebellion over an invitation to a black minister. Tyson's avoidance of stereotypes and simple answers brings a shameful recent era in our country's history to vivid life. This book deserves the largest possible audience. Agent, Charlotte Sheedy at Sterling Lord Literistic. 8-city author tour. (May 18) FYI: Tyson's last book, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (1999), won the James Rawley Prize and was co-winner of the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Tyson (Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power) here offers a memoir of his youth in Oxford, NC, at the time of the Civil Rights Movement. A white Methodist minister and social activist, his father worked for better race relations. Despite his efforts and those of others, three white men murdered a young black man in summer 1970 and were eventually acquitted by an all-white jury. This ignited violence and increased racial tension in Oxford, and Tyson's father came to be regarded as a traitor for his opinions on civil rights. Eventually, he lost his church, which forced the family to leave Oxford. Based on the author's reminiscences as well as interviews with participants in the events of 1970-including the murderers, who remain unremorseful-this fascinating account shows how major social changes powerfully affect people in a small town. A significant work of memoir and social history; for public and academic libraries.-Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ. Lib., Parkersburg (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Powerful, wrenching story of a racial killing during the author's North Carolina childhood. Tyson (African-American Studies/University of Wisconsin-Madison) was only ten in 1970, when a young black husband and father was savagely beaten and then shot to death in Oxford, North Carolina, by some white men who claimed he had insulted one of their women. The killers were subsequently acquitted by an all-white jury. The author artfully weaves together a number of stories in this account. We hear about his own family, going back several generations but with major attention devoted to Tyson's father, a liberal white preacher in Oxford who had an admirable record of working to improve race relations, though his son fondly chides him for the subconsciously racist notion that the goal of the civil-rights movement was to make black people more like whites. Tyson also sketches the histories of the victim, the killers, and the leaders of Oxford's white and black communities. He scathingly depicts the dilatory police and the risible, ridiculous trial. He writes about the civil-rights movement's high and low points (the 1970 shootings at Jackson State included among the latter). And he chronicles his tumultuous coming of age. Tyson ran away from home at 17, but a lovely passage describes his father finding him walking along a rural road, holding him tight, and praying for him. After several years of indulgence in drugs and general dissipation, the author decided to enroll in college: "And the first thing I did as a twenty-four-year-old freshman was to drive to Oxford, North Carolina, to ask Robert Teel why he'd killed Henry Marrow." Tyson returned again as a graduate student and then as a historian to research the story that inhabits the heart of this remarkable work: a reminder that the struggle for racial equality prompted vileness and violence on all sides. One of the most candid and lucent books on race in this or any other year. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.