Patrick Phillips

Blood at the Root

A Racial Cleansing in America

W.W. Norton & Company 2016

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network January 16, 2017 James Stancil

Forsyth County, Georgia, at the turn of the twentieth century was home to a large African American community that included ministers and teachers, farmers...

Forsyth County, Georgia, at the turn of the twentieth century was home to a large African American community that included ministers and teachers, farmers and field hands, tradesmen, servants, and children. In 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.

Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing (W.W. Norton and Company, 2016)in America 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, the author breaks a century-long silence and uncovers a history of racial terrorism that continues to shape America in the twenty-first century.

Dr. 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: A Racial Cleansing in America is Patrick Phillip’s first book of nonfiction. He is currently the director of the Writing Minor at Drew University, and teaches creative writing, literature, and literary translation. Phillips is also noted poet in addition to being a well-respected scholar. His Elegy for a Broken Machine appeared in the Knopf Poets series in 2015, and Phillips was named a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, was a past fellow of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggennheim Foundation. He is also the author of two earlier poetry collections, Boy, and Chattahoochee, and the translator of When We Leave Each Other: Selected Poems by the Danish writer Henrik Nordbrandt.


James Stancil is an independent scholar, freelance journalist, and the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area non-profit dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people.

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