Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America
By Patrick Phillips
Patrick Phillips hoes heavily plowed territory (broadly, black-white relations, or lack of them, in America, from slavery to present day) and manages, often in powerful style, to produce a story that reveals much about white racial hatred. He accomplishes this by digging deep into the purposely buried history of among the most, if not the most, violent, hate-filled patches of land in the U.S.: Forsyth County, Georgia. Today it is a giant, wealthy (among the wealthiest in the country) beneficiary of Atlanta’s prosperity. However, it still bears, though out of sight by choice, the wounds of its violent racial rampage against its African American families, so that today African Americans comprise only 2.6 percent of the population (2010 U.S. census; even Alaska has a larger African American population, 4.3 percent), in a state with 31 percent of its citizens African American.
In September 1912, three young black workers are accused of raping and murdering a white girl. From that moment and for the next nearly one-hundred years, whites, often rampaging like packs of wild dogs, lynch and otherwise intimidate the black population of Forsyth County until it is nearly one-hundred percent white, and maintain the county as whites-only straight through the 1960s and 70s. Phillips draws on primary research that includes interviews with people who were children at the time to trace Forsyth’s lineage of hate.
And it literally is a lineage of hate. What Phillips demonstrates so effectively is how virulent race hate is. Those with the notion that time will resolve racial hate, that not everybody on the scene of hateful, barbaric acts condone them, will see how wishful such a thought is. In one of the more chilling passages, Phillips quotes from Royal Freeman Nash’s article that appeared in the November 1915 issue of W.E.B. Du Bois Crisis magazine. This has to do with whites taking advantage of blacks forced to sell whatever they could not carry as they fled Forsyth:
“‘Failure to vacate on the date set meant a stealthy visit in the night and either dynamite or the torch. The result was a state of terror which caused one Negro family to accept a twenty-four hour notice [delivered by] two children aged five and six respectively, who had learned the game from their elders.’”
A worthy addition to the sorrowful history of prejudice and hatred in America, made even more compelling when readers learn that the author’s parents and he himself participated in the January 1987 Brotherhood Marches to demand change. w/c