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Blood Done Sign My Name

An analysis of the stylistic purpose of Timothy Tyson's "Blood Done Sign My Name."
by

Carson Saffold

on 20 September 2012

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Transcript of Blood Done Sign My Name

Style "Blood Done Sign My Name" Analysis Overview "'Daddy and Roger and 'em shot a 'em a nigger.' That's what Gerald Teel said to me in my family's driveway in Oxford, North Carolina, on May 12, 1970. We were both ten years old. I was bouncing a basketball. The night before, a black man had 'said something' at the store to Judy, his nineteen-year-old sister-in-law, Gerald told me, and his father and two of his brothers had run him out of the store and shot him dead. The man's name was Henry Marrow, I found out later, but his family called him Dickie. He was killed in public as he lay on his back, helpless, begging for his life." "Blood Done Sign My Name" is a true story about the 1970 murder of Henry Marrow, a black veteran, and the impact of his death on the town of Oxford, North Carolina. Purpose Tim Tyson's purpose in writing "Blood Done Sign My Name" is the exploration of how Henry Marrow's murder affected the residents of Oxford, and reflected the nationwide racial conflicts of the time. Journalistic Style Allusions To Religion "So while this is the story of a small boy in a small town one hot Southern summer, it is also the story of a nation torn apart by racial, political, social, and cultural clashes so deep that they echo in our lives to this day." "I pondered, too, the blood that beat in my own veins and the ways in which my family's history was implicated in Henry Marrow's killing--and perhaps even redeemed, since by the end of things, if anything ever really ends, his killing set our faces toward a strange new Jerusalem. It was his blood, to paraphrase the old spiritual, that signed our names." "But enslaved African American families in Granville County remembered who they were, and whose they were, through the distinct Afro-American faith they adapted from the religion their masters sought to impose on them. To the South's four million slaves, W.E.B. Du Bois Wrote, 'God was real. They knew Him. They had met him personally in many a wild orgy of religious frenzy, or in the black stillness of the night.' And in that stillness and tumult, the enslaved sons and daughters of Africa met their God and their neighbors, and affirmed that they were all children of the same Lord who'd brought the Israelites out of bondage, the same Lord who'd rescued Daniel from the lion's den, the same Lord who'd given a little shepherd boy a slingshot to bring down mighty Goliath. In the 'brush arbor,' as some called their invisible church, they sang their own songs, drawn from the Scripture and from the lives of their slave ancestors. They knew that God, in His grace, had sent Jesus to be nailed to the cross to raise them up, and that their names were written in the Lamb's Book of Life: 'Ain't you glad, ain't you glad, that the blood done sign my name,' they would sing." "The racial views of the Almighty were well known to the white citizens of eastern North Carolina. Most white Christians believed that white supremacy was the will of God; the Lord Himself had placed them above the 'sons of Ham,' whose appointed purpose was to be hewers of white people's wood and drawers of white people's water." Tyson repeatedly alludes to religion to present the reader with a religious take on the racial conflict in Oxford, and indeed the rest of America. Tyson also uses these religious allusions to make the point that the issue of race is centered around religion. "He pushed 'Record' with both thumbs and said, 'I'll talk to you. Is this thing on?' As I stepped toward him to make sure it was, Teel issued what he considered the summary assessment of what had happened back on May 11, 1970: 'That nigger committed suicide, wanting to come in my store and four-letter-word my daughter in law.'" "'I was in the movement and all,' he [Edward McCoy] said, 'but I had just got back from the Dominican Republic . I was in the army, and we invaded the Dominican Republic back in 1965. When I came out , I didn't want to take any shit off white people anymore. And all these brothers on the blocks out here, they was just back from Vietnam, a lot of them, and we weren't into that Martin Luther King shit.'" "He'd gone to talk to Chavis, Daddy explained to me later, because there was hardly anyone else except the two of them who could build a bridge--and even their success was uncertain. 'Most of the white people in Wilmington couldn't cross the color line and get anything done,' he said. 'The Uncle Toms couldn't do it, because even if the white people heard what they had to say, the black community was not going to follow them. If peacemakers and community builders were going to emerge it would have to be people like us. It might not have helped much, but we had to try.'" Through use of a very journalistic style of writing, Tyson is able to express viewpoints that would not normally be expressed--such as the white southern liberal, the radical black power movement organizer, and the conservative, lower class white southerner. Even title of the book, "Blood Done Sign My Name," has prevalent religious overtones. "The Blood Done Sign My Name," the song that the book derives its title from, was originally a slave spiritual. Tyson is able to express these viewpoints through the use of dozens of journalistic interviews.
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