Last night I was lucky enough to meet historian Tim Tyson author of Blood Done Sign My Name. He’s at the National Humanities Center this year and staying just a block away from my house. In many ways, he’s always been about a block away.
Turns out that had I known several of the people in his book, but at very different times in their (and in my) lives. That is not in Oxford, NC, but in other places. Ben Chavis (later of Wilmington Ten, now Muhammad) and James Grant (later of Charlotte Three) were both involved in the Gene McCarthy presidential campaign when living in Charlotte in 1968 and in the anti-war movement there. Julia Stockton — before, I think, she met Tim and encouraged him to leave his life of restaurant work and go be a writer and historian — was in a poetry writing group with me. She is a wonderful poet who also worked with Bill Harmon on his Handbook to Literature.
It has been decades since I’m see these folks so reading Tim’s book was a kind of reunion for me. An odd one, since I was reading of parts of their lives already long past and parts tied to a single event which while up the road only a short ways from me when I was in college at NCSU seemed so remote. Much has changed for each of them since Tim’s book and the events following the racially motivated murder of Henry Marrow in Oxford, NC in 1970 (25 years after the more famous killing of Emmett Till in Alabama) as well.
Tim was at our place to meet with Sally’s bookclub of mostly lawyers, historians and a doctor who get together to discuss non-fiction books. Apparently, they get enough fiction during their day jobs. I got to sit in in a support capacity. There was a lively discussion and Tim with his humor and good tales held up well and was a delight to talk with.
It was rewarding to read Jonathan Yardley’s Washington Post review of Tim’s book tonight. I’ve always considered Yardley a conservative writer in general, but in this review he writes well and straight on the issues raised and colored by the murder in Oxford from his title “A candid account of an ugly episode in the last days of Jim Crow North Carolina.” on to the close of the article.