Blood Done Sign My Name

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Blood Done Sign My Name
Author Timothy Tyson
Language English
Genre Autobiography; historical non-fiction
Publisher Crown
Publication date
May 18, 2004
Media type Print (hardcover & paperback)
Pages 368
ISBN 0-609-61058-9 (hardcover)
OCLC 53019249
975.6/535/00496073 22
LC Class F264.O95 T97 2004

Blood Done Sign My Name is an autobiographical work of history written by Timothy B. Tyson while he was a professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The book, published in 2004 and based in part on a Master of Arts thesis Tyson wrote in 1990, while attending Emory University, deals with the 1970 murder of Henry Marrow, a black man.

Since 2004, the book has sold 140,000 copies and earned awards including the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion. UNC-CH selected the book for its 2005 summer reading program.[1] It was adapted as a movie by the same name, released in 2010.


The book deals with the 1970 killing by whites of Henry Marrow, a 23-year-old black Vietnam War veteran in Oxford, North Carolina. The murder, and acquittal of two suspects by an all-white jury, resulted in arson and other violence. Blacks organized to conduct an 18-month boycott of white businesses in the mostly segregated town, to force change in public facilities. The case helped galvanize the African-American civil rights activities in Oxford and across the eastern North Carolina black belt.

Local civil rights activist Ben Chavis took a lead role in the Civil Rights Movement; he led the march to the capital and boycott of businesses. This episode radicalized the African-American freedom struggle in North Carolina. Racial conflict in Wilmington, North Carolina resulted in the burning of a grocery store; the Wilmington Ten cases resulted from charges against Ben Chavis and nine other black men in this incident, several of whom were convicted and imprisoned to long terms. They were eventually freed on an appeal; in the 1990s Chavis became the youngest ever executive director of the NAACP and later an organizer of the Million Man March.

Tyson, whose father was the minister of the Oxford United Methodist Church, a prominent local church, explores not only the white supremacy of the South's racial caste system but his personal and family stories. (His father was driven out of the church because of his support for civil rights.) The younger Tyson interweaves a narrative of the story and its effects on him with discussion of the racial history of North Carolina and the United States, and the violent realities of that history on both sides of the color line. He explored the persistence of discrimination years after passage of federal laws to enforce civil rights. Tyson challenges the popular memory of the movement as a nonviolent call on America's conscience led by Martin Luther King. He described a movement that was local as well as national, violent as well as nonviolent, and more complicated than suggested by some of the accounts of the civil rights years.

The author[edit]

Tyson is Senior Scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Visiting Professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture at Duke Divinity School.

Film adaptation[edit]

A movie adaptation of the book with a screenplay by writer Jeb Stuart, who also directed, was released in the United States on February 19, 2010. The film starred Ricky Schroder, Omar Benson Miller, and Michael Rooker. It was filmed in the cities of Shelby, Statesville, Monroe and Gastonia, North Carolina. The African-American historian, John Hope Franklin, has a cameo in the film.[2]


  1. ^ "Tyson's 'Blood' to be filmed in N.C.". Raleigh News & Observer. February 13, 2008. 
  2. ^ A. O. SCOTT, "A Town Torn Asunder by Racial Killing in ’70", New York Times, 18 February 2010, accessed 14 November 2013

External links[edit]