“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, Tim 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,” Ted 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.”
Book Review: ★★★★★★
This is a book that I found quite disturbing. The story of one of the more graphic demonstrations of the failing of our American Justice system, this book is both horrifying, and fascinating at the same time. It presents the story of the murder of a young, black man, in his early 20′s, the racial war that it started, and the town of Oxford, North Carolina — a town that nearly self destructed in the aftermath.
This is a fantastic book, as an introduction to the Civil Rights movement in this country — telling the story on both the national stage, and the personal lives simultaneously — it offers an in depth look into the overall scope of the race wars that ensued in this country, and continue to rage in many places. Presented in a shifting format between the black perspective, and the white perspective — the author has been able to present a story without one point of view overwhelming the other.
In 1970, Henry Marrow — a quiet, unassuming family man had a fatal run in with a violent racist, and his sons. The result of this confrontation was a brutal murder in the middle of the street — in the middle of the day. This act sparked a passionate struggle, that produced violence, and rabid hatred between the black, and the white societies of Oxford, North Carolina. Standing in the middle of this struggle was one minister, Reverend Tyson, and Ben Chavis, Henry’s closest friend — and the story that would play out in the national news, throughout the country. This became the catalyst of a lifelong pursuit for justice, on the part of Ben Chavis — a man that ultimately rose to become the President of the NAACP.
This book is one that I found particularly disturbing. I have never understood the need to see the world through the eyes of color — and it is troubling the number of people that feel any person’s values can be determined by nothing more than the color of his skin. Further, I am troubled at the example this sets, that justice is not only capable of setting precedent based on color, but it is also politically, and racially driven. In the words of the author, “The actual history of the South too often rests in an unmarked grave, while the celebratory lies and politically convenient distortions march into immortality.” I fear that this statement is more true than we will ever know — and furthermore, I also fear that it is not a truth that is confined merely to the South.
This is a part of history that I have only just begun to study — mainly because I find it so disturbing to me personal. Having grown up in a predominantly white community, and having come from an average white middle class home — I would like to hope that this is violence that we, as a society have put behind us. But I know that the struggle for racial equality rages on — and I find it heartbreaking that so many people are not able to see beyond something as minor as a color difference, to discover the true value of every human being within.
For more information about this book, and its author be sure to visit the following websites:
When you buy a product (not just books – any product), via one of my links, The Book Worm’s Library earns income from the sale and as always, it’s much appreciated as all affiliate income is used to support the blog by contributing to giveaways, postage, travel, and attending book industry related events. We appreciate all those that help to support our blog, and have provided links below for the direct links to this book.>