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Extended Audio Sample Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story, by Timothy B. Tyson Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,210 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Timothy B. Tyson Narrator: Robertson Dea Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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“Daddy and Roger and ‘em shot ‘em a nigger.”

Those words, whispered to ten-year-old Tim Tyson by one of his playmates in the late spring of 1970, heralded a firestorm that would forever transform the small tobacco market town of Oxford, North Carolina.

On May 11, 1970, Henry Marrow, a 23-year-old black veteran, walked into a crossroads store owned by Robert Teel, a rough man with a criminal record and ties to the Ku Klux Klan, and came out running. Teel and two of his sons chased Marrow, beat him unmercifully, and killed him in public as he pleaded for his life. In the words of a local prosecutor: “They shot him like you or I would kill a snake.”

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, led by 22-year-old Ben Chavis, a future president of the NAACP. As mass protests crowded the town square, a cluster of returning Vietnam veterans organized what one termed “a military operation.” While lawyers battled in the courthouse that summer in a drama that one termed “a Perry Mason kind of thing,” the Ku Klux Klan raged in the shadows and black veterans torched the town's tobacco warehouses.

With large sections of the town in flames, Tyson’s father, the pastor of Oxford’s all-white Methodist church, pressed his congregation to widen their vision of humanity and pushed the town to come to terms with its bloody racial history. In the end, however, the Tyson family was forced to move away.

Years later, historian Tim Tyson returned to Oxford to ask Robert Teel why he and his sons had killed Henry Marrow. “That nigger committed suicide, coming in here wanting to four-letter-word my daughter-in-law,” Teel explained.

The black radicals who burned much of Oxford also told Tim their stories. “It was like we had a cash register up there at the pool hall, just ringing up how much money we done cost these white people,” one of them explained. “We knew if we cost ‘em enough goddamn money they was gonna start changing some things.”

In the tradition of To Kill a Mockingbird, Blood Done Sign My Name is a classic work of conscience, a defining portrait of a time and place that we will never forget. Tim Tyson’s riveting narrative of that fiery summer and one family’s struggle to build bridges in a time of destruction brings gritty blues truth, soaring gospel vision, and down-home humor to our complex history, where violence and faith, courage and evil, despair and hope all mingle to illuminate America's enduring chasm of race.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Tyson has written an honest book, far more so than most explorations of race in America. He understands that the true past—to the extent we can ever know the ‘truth’ about the past—was vastly more complicated and bloody than the gussied-up past in which we so desperately want to believe, and that until we understand this, we will be incapable of redeeming ourselves and our country.”

    Washington Post

  • “Pulses with vital paradox…It’s a detached dissertation, a damning dark-night-of-the-white-soul, and a ripping yarn, all united by Tyson’s powerful voice, a brainy, booming Bubba profundo.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Admirable and unexpected…A riveting story that will have his readers weeping with both laughter and sorrow.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • Blood Done Sign My Name is a most important book and one of the most powerful meditations on race in America that I have ever read.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “If you want to read only one book to understand the uniquely American struggle for racial equality and the swirls of emotion around it, this is it.”

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  • A 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Heather | 2/20/2014

    " I found this book to be a valiant yet failed attempt to deal with a very difficult historical topic in memoir form. Structurally, it was very obviously the product of a historian trying to write a literary narrative, which left the characters nebulous, the narrator ungrounded, and the "story-line" generally detached. Throughout the book I struggled with, and never really got over, the problems inherent in a white man's attempt to write another culture's history through the lens of experiences he barely understood during his childhood and adolescence. While the history is sensitive, it is also often appropriative; I was particularly disturbed with the use of a line from an African American spiritual, "Blood Done Sign My Name" as the title, especially because the "MY" implies that the narrator/author actually DID something other than spectate. While Tyson is indeed courageous to have attempted to put this history down on paper, particularly in the form of a "memoir," it was more problematic than self-aware. Perhaps this just wasn't his story to write (though I'm sure it will be argued, "Who will write it?"). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Mary | 2/7/2014

    " listening to audiobook. I highly recommend this format because the author reads his own work. This choice of narrator not brings a deeply personal knowledge to the text. By having the author, a native North Carolinian, read his book, he can bring to life with a natural Southern accent and first-hand knowledge of regional dialects. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Michele Huffman | 2/3/2014

    " We read this for February Non-Fiction book club here in London OH. It is about a young African-American Vietnam war vet that was beaten and shot to death in broad daylight for "maybe" speaking to a white woman in May 1972. The author's father was a civil rights activist and a white Methodist minister. Therefore ,his family was right at the center of the conflict that resulted from the murder. My main critcism of the book is that the author tended to digress from the main topic of the murder and the effects on the small southern community and its people. Still, was a good read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by RF | 1/29/2014

    " based right here in North Carolina - a gripping tale of the south and the tragedy and pain in race relations... best book on race in the south I've read so far. does not offer easy answers. nicely bridges personal experience with historical perspectiev. really worth reading. "

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About the Author
Author Timothy B. Tyson

Timothy B. Tyson is a professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.