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Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  2,884 ratings  ·  485 reviews
A gripping tale of racial cleansing in Forsyth County, Georgia, and a harrowing testament to the deep roots of racial violence in America.

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. Many black residents were poor
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by W. W. Norton Company
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Karen Yes, the march with busloads was the 2nd march which was accompanied by "350 state troopers, 185 Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents, and 2,000 sol…moreYes, the march with busloads was the 2nd march which was accompanied by "350 state troopers, 185 Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents, and 2,000 soldiers of the Georgia National Guard". This one was, of course, completed and peaceful.(less)

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Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips is a 2016 W.W. Norton & Company publication.

This is a shocking historical account of the true events that took place in Cumming, Georgia in Forsyth county beginning in 1912 when three black men were accused of murdering a white woman.

The hysteria that ensued is stunning and I must admit, I had never heard of this case, but do recall vague murmurings about Cumming, Georgia from time to time. I suppose the news stories explains
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
After two incidents in 1912 involving white women and black men, the good citizens of Forsyth County, Georgia took it upon themselves to cleanse their county of all things negro. They killed, threatened and burned out over 1000 blacks living in the county and continued to prevent their return until the 1990s (after some protest marches in 1987). There was no KKK in the state at the time, these were just "normal" citizens, who, with the help of the sheriff (who later joined the Klan), distorted s ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A clear four star read. Thank you, Guy, for suggesting it to me.

We start on September 5, 1912. A white woman claims she woke up with a black man by her bed! Events unroll; three black teenagers are accused of raping and murdering a white girl. One Black ends up lynched in the town square. Two Blacks are hung after a cursory, one day trial. This is just the beginning. The place is Cumming, Forsyth County, Georgia, USA – today part of the Atlanta metropolitan area. The focus is the racial cleansi
Nancy Oakes
It's a 4.5 for me.

Between September and October of 1912, all but a very few of the 1,098 African-American citizens (according to the 1910 census) living in Forsyth County Georgia had been run out of the county. The idea of "sundown towns," or communities which purposefully excluded African-Americans from living there, is nothing new, but this book reveals that not only were these people driven out of the county, but also that a "deliberate and sustained campaign of terror" on the part of white r
Leo Walsh
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
How ironic, reviewing a history of white supremacists terrorizing a Georgia town in 1912 on the first full day of Jeff Sessions’ tenure as US Attorney General. Sessions, an elite white man from Alabama, has a long, contentious history with civil and voting rights laws. As a federal judge, he dragged his heels while pursuing hate crime and civil rights cases, and supported voter suppression laws that targeted African American voters. I cannot see into Sessions’ soul. But his actions are EXACTLY w ...more
Amanda Mae
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Being from north Georgia, I was anxious to read this book about a county in north Georgia that drove off all the black residents and was "white only" for decades -- until another bout of racial insanity in the late 80s. The author lived with his family in the county during the civil rights march of 1987, and his parents and sister marched in it. This is his attempt at tracing how this area got so heated and bigoted.

When he recounted the history of lynching in this country, and highlighted a few
Jeff Crosby
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A Jewish proverb declares that "in remembrance is the secret of redemption." If that's true, then author Patrick Phillips has offered not only the current and future citizens of Forsyth County, Georgia but indeed contemporary American culture a shot at redemption. His book "Blood at the Root" researches, exposes and remembers a shocking piece of Georgia - but, more accurately, American - history, and helps point a way forward for others to remember - and repair - our own tragic, unredeemed racis ...more
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This stark, sobering, and sometimes gruesome account describes what happened in a "whites-only" county north of Atlanta. The protest marches there took place in the 1980s, but I don't remember them. I do know they don't teach you this part of history at school or college. ...more
Mikey B.
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a very harrowing story of the county of Forsyth in the state of Georgia (in the U.S.). In 1912 there was a brutal murder of a white woman and three black men were apprehended and accused – and then publicly hanged with hundreds watching. Needless to say the trial was a travesty and the author points out that the lawyers defending the accused were hardly competent – and also any lawyer defending black men of rape or murder would be fearful for their lives if their defendant got off with l ...more
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookclub, nonfiction
This was such a hard book to read. It is probably the most disturbing book I've ever read because it is true and these things actually happened. Non-fiction about Forsyth County, GA, where in 1912 the white residents decided that after two back-to-back crimes perceived to have been committed by black men, that they would force every black family out of the county - and they were successful at keeping their county "white-only" until the late '80s. I truly didn't know that there were places in Ame ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a powerful book. The author reveals horrible truths about the racial cleansing in Forsyth. I feel not enough people know about this and should. It was so difficult to read even though the book wasn't very long. There were times I had to put the book down because the events that happened were pretty terrible and it was made more upsetting because this actually happened. However, the author has written it so well with matter-of-factness, truth and tact. I wish higher powers would read this ...more
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
4.5 stars | What a heavy read!! The 'Racial Cleansing' that drove 1,100 black residents out of Forsyth County, GA. I don't know why I continued to be shocked at the pure EVIL that resides in humans. Although the year was 1912, the underlying foundation of this story is rearing its ugly head again. Not that this hatred ever went away but now there's a platform to not have any decency or empathy for your fellow man.

An open letter to President Woodrow Wilson from W.E.B. DuBois -- "...we want to be
Nov 16, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
Phillips spent his childhood, much of it, in Forsyth County, Georgia. He learned quickly that African Americans weren't welcome and had been, in fact, run out of the county in 1912. It was a bit of trivia that he would share from time to time. Then a friend challenged him to learn more. What was the history behind the story?

So he delves into the story of a pretty typical town in 1912 America. And that is the horrible bit. Though the actions of Forsyth County (and the town of Cummings) were extre
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down! The idea of a town successful practicing racial cleansing for decades was totally unbelievable to me but anything is possible in America. I loved the way this story was told. I could feel the history, heartbreak and legacy of this story. ...more
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
I would imagine that author Patrick Phillips is probably none too popular in his old hometown of Cumming, Forsyth County, Georgia. A more damning and damnable portrait could not be imagined. It makes for shocking reading.

In 1912 a group of young black men were accused of gang-raping and murdering a young white girl. Whether they were innocent or guilty was irrelevant - they were black, she was white, and someone needed to pay. The county exploded in racial violence, and in the wake of the girl's
Nov 12, 2016 rated it liked it
A microcosmic look at the intractable racism contained within the borders of the United States of America. The author does a good job of researching the white supremacist stance of the citizens of Forsyth County, GA, which of course had diasatrous effects on the Black citizenry of the county. Land, property and livestock were outtright taken as Blacks were ran out of the county in 1912 and effectively kept out until the 21st century. The author's parents moved to Forsyth County in 1977, although ...more
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As someone who grew up on the other side of Lake Lanier in Hall County, I found it an extremely unsettling experience to read about the horrifying lynch mobs and "racial cleansing" that occurred in neighboring Forsyth County, a place I know so well. So I can only imagine how unsettling it was for the author Patrick Phillips, who grew up in Forsyth, to write about them.

It's impossible for me to step back and write a straightforward review of "Blood at the Root," given my familiarity with all the
A deeply fascinating work of non-fiction that holds the readers attention from the first pages & doesn't ever let go.

Patrick Phillips researches a town of an area in an old Georgia county where lawlessness & racism rule as the iron-clad tools of "justice". But what Phillips does is ask his readers to back up & not see just see the injustices at play; but to also understand the historical aspects & how the injustice are by design.

Tracing from the generation right before Emancipation; weaving hi
Sep 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
The author is not a trained historian - he's a poet and writing instructor - and that sometimes shows in the ways the page count is padded with block quotes and conjecture. That said, this is still an interesting micro-history. Phillips does a very good job of showing the complicated relationship between the "crackers" terrorizing Black families and the larger White economic power structure of Forsyth County. He also rightly focuses on the ways in which the White population as a whole continuall ...more
A chilling and astonishing exploration of the history of Forsyth County, Georgia where, after a rape and murder in 1912, local white citizens drove all African Americans out of the county. Forsyth County remained all-white throughout most of the 20th Century. Phillips has done his research and this is a well-written and important work for those who want to understand the history of racial violence in the United States.
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a hard read; it's heartbreaking and infuriating, but it's also an incredibly important read, and we need to learn from our mistakes and the dark points in our past lest we allow history to repeat itself. For being such a tough subject it is written very well and was a quick read; I'd definitely recommend. ...more
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book tells the frightful history of race relations in Forsyth County, Georgia, a county whose white population successfully expelled its blacks in a racial cleansing in 1912, and remained 'racially pure' – not even tolerating a person of color driving through or stepping over the county line – until a coordinated campaign forced change in 1987. It "is an attempt to understand how the people of my home place arrived at that moment and to trace the origins of the 'whites only' world they foug ...more
Audacia Ray
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is what a white person reckoning with his local history looks like. Wow. Phillips writes about Forsyth, the Georgia county he grew up in, and the racial cleansing (lynchings, forcing 1000+ blacks out of their homes, theft of black property) that white people did in 1912 and led to the county being maintained as all white for almost the next century. The research is impressive, as is his analysis of the erasure and denial of the violence that the community participated in during the latter h ...more
Maya B
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I would have enjoyed it more in narrative form, but it was interesting to read about a topic I never read about
Thought-provoking and sobering read about man's hatred towards the "other" and others.

This is the most thought-provoking book I have read; I dare to say that it may be the most important one I will ever read. Very timely and sobering details about racism and hatred, and efforts to bury the past (and denying the past's continuum with the present).

Something that immediately caught my attention was that the author (Patrick Phillips) was 7 in 1977, the same age as me (BTW, Phillips was very kind an
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good book on a hard-to-read, subject. It is difficult to believe the horror that mankind has and continues to inflict on itself. Mr. Phillips does a great job of bringing to life events which happened in this country in recent times, and involved people that could be our neighbors. It is troublesome that in this country, people who see themselves as god-fearing and law abiding can come together in the street and in the justice system and utterly fail as human beings. For all the goodness that ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I would like to thank Edelweiss, W.W. Norton & CO., and Patrick Phillips for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review. This retelling is of racial events that took place just after the turn of the century in Forsyth County, Georgia, outside of Atlanta and for nearly 75 years was an all white community. The author tells the story how 3 African American men were accused, tried, and hanged for the rape and murder of a young, white female. Phillips goes further back in history and ...more
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An informative book about a little-known and very shameful episode in America's history. Forsyth County, now in suburban Atlanta, was white-only from about 1915 to well into the 1990's. Even black people brought in by visiting whites, as chauffeurs, maids, etc., were threatened until the whole group was run out of the county. Well-written and compelling. ...more
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Eclectic Readers: Episode 37: Interview with Patrick Phillips 1 5 May 18, 2019 02:06PM  
Eclectic Readers: Blood at the Root 1 10 Feb 28, 2017 04:09PM  
Eclectic Readers: Episode 31: Blood at the Root 1 13 Feb 14, 2017 11:19AM  

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Patrick Philips was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned a BA from Tufts University, an MFA from the University of Maryland, and a PhD in English Renaissance literature from New York University. He is the author of the poetry collections Chattahoochee (2004), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, Boy (2008), and Elegy for a Broken Machine (2015), a finalist for the National Book Award. Through ...more

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84 likes · 7 comments
“By the end of October, the night riders had forced out all but a handful of the 1,098 members of the African American community - who left in their wake abandoned homes and schools, stores and livestock, and harvest-ready crops standing in the fields. Overnight, their churches stood empty, the rooms where they used to sing 'River of Jordan' and 'Go Down Moses' now suddenly, eerily quiet.” 2 likes
“Generation after generation, Forsyth County remained 'all white,' even as the Great War, the Spanish influenza, World War II, and the civil rights movement came and went, and as kudzu crept over the remnants of black Forsyth. The people of the country, many descended from the lynchers and night riders, shook their heads as the South changed around them. They read about the clashes in Montgomery, and Savannah, and Selma, and felt proud of their county's old-fashioned ways, its unspoiled beauty, and a peacefulness that they saw as a direct result of having 'run the n*****s out.' But now and again throughout the century, whenever someone intentionally or unwittingly violated the racial ban, white men could be counted on to rise up like they always had and drive the intruders away. Years might pass between such episodes, but each time it happened, Georgians were reminded that while the racial cleansing of 1912 seemed like ancient history, in truth, it had never really ended. In truth, many in Forsyth believed that 'racial purity' was their inheritance and birthright. And like their fathers' fathers' fathers, they saw even a single black face as a threat to their entire way of life.” 0 likes
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