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Summary

Forsyth County, Georgia, at the turn of the 20th 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 21st century.

©2016 Patrick Philips (P)2016 Random House Audio

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Profile Image for Bailey
  • Bailey
  • 06-03-18

when is white history month?

I just finished the book, "Blood at the Root - A Racial Cleansing in America" by Patrick Phillips. It's the history of events in Forsyth County, Georgia, in 1912.

In September of that year, a young and beautiful white woman was found brutally beaten and raped. A young black man was arrested, then lynched in the town square, based on the evidence that he lived nearby and had been seen in the area where the woman was found. Not satisfied with the lynching, 2 more teenagers were arrested and convicted and executed at a public hanging enjoyed by more than 5000 of Forsyth County's citizens who came for the day with their children and picnic baskets.

Not satisfied with the lynching and executions, the white citizens of Forsyth County set about a series of "night rides", shootings, burnings and bombings, intent on driving Forsyth County's 1100 black residents out of the county.

Not content with driving the blacks out, whites then quietly absorbed the land and property of the 1100 mostly farmers who had been forced to leave.

For the next several decades, this pattern of violence was repeated again and again whenever any unaware black person happened to wander into the county. In 1987, when a civil rights march was planned to remember the 75th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Forsyth County, white citizens once again erupted in a riot of violence and hatred.

Today, Forsyth County has a small black population, and larger Latino and Asian communities, and has become an affluent, peaceful suburb of Atlanta. In the town square there's still a statue of local Confederate hero and adamant white supremacist, Hiram Parks Bell. There's no memorial to the hundreds of poor blacks who were beaten, raped, burned, lynched, and driven out in the decades after Hiram Bell's war, no real memorial to the real history of the county.

And of course, this wasn't an isolated event. Similar racial cleansing took place all over the country. The pattern is always the same - a crime, a scapegoat, mob violence, expulsion, then finally, possession of land and property.

Last month I saw a meme in a Facebook post from a friend of a friend with the tagline "100% white, 100% proud". The text of the meme was the question, "when is white history month?"

White history month is every month. And I've got your history right here.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Cheryl L. Lessin
  • 10-01-17

must read -

must read - especially with trump. ascension. Helps clarify the social base for fascism in this country. its up to us to stop it

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Mastiff Enthusiast
  • 04-04-18

incredibly sad documentation of horrible racism

this book documents horrible racism that eas allowed up fester in America for over 80 years finally in 1987, the effort was made to drive it out. people wonder why black people feel there is still racism, why they don't trust the law, don't trust whites why "after 100 years" they can't move on... maybe this will help people understand...

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  • Buffie
  • 01-02-18

Amazing!

This story is the perfect start to a conversation about race and injustice in America. It should be a must read for all high school and collegiate students. it will provide a consisce look into the hearts of many people of color. Enjoy and Awaken!

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  • Anthony
  • 14-12-17

horrific story told with care

I was shocked, angered, and saddened by the terror created. America's past is really not so far away. it leads me to believe that if we are not vigilant we can lose all that we have gained.

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  • Janet E. Frick
  • 25-11-17

Required reading for anyone who wants to understand racial history

I have lived in Georgia for 20 years and this book is the first clear telling I have had of the history of white terrorism that has had such an impact on 20th century Georgia. The issues outlined here are not isolated to Forsyth County, of course, but understanding that microcosm and the ripple effects that it had more broadly is essential for white people in particular to understand where we are today in our country. Highly recommended.

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  • Sadie Blu
  • 09-08-17

Riveting and upsetting

It is hard to believe that the events described in this book happened during my lifetime. Many of these citizens are still alive today. where do these deeply rooted feelings go when polite society and culture says it is no longer appropriate to say you don't want the blacks in your neighborhood or town...underground...waiting for the right time to when it will be ok...

really thought provoking given the current political climate, especially our attorney general....he fits right in with the elected officials covered in this book. I feel like I van better understand Mr. Sessions inclinations.

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  • KBoch
  • 02-12-16

Those who fail to understand history…

I moved with my family to for side county into thousand and two, unaware of its history. I was mortified to learn that I had moved to the same county I had seen on Oprah's anniversary special that had aired just months prior. I am happy to say that things have definitely improved. But I believe this is an important book for people who truly want to understand what has happened here in the past. It is difficult to think about these things that I can't imagine. Hearing the names of familiar streets as these horrific events are described is unsettling. This book will stay with me for a long time.

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  • carterpatterson
  • 11-10-16

A moving read

I enjoyed this book immensely. It has provided a new insight to me on the county that I live in.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful