2007 – Timothy Tyson

A North Carolina scholar has earned the 2007 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his memoir analyzing the social and spiritual effects of a racially motivated murder in his hometown.

In his 2004 book, “Blood Done Sign My Name,” Timothy Tyson tells the story of the killing of a young black man, Henry Marrow, by two white men in Oxford, N.C. The accused murderers were acquitted, provoking riots and social upheaval.

Tyson, who was 10 years old at the time, examines the killing and its aftermath from many angles. He intersperses narration of actual events with interviews of people who were involved, including one of the alleged murderers. He also recounts how the events affected him personally, including the forced resignation of his father, a progressive white Methodist minister, from his pastorate.

“This book explores issues of sin, redemption, conscience and human decency,” said Susan Garrett, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary professor who directs the religion award. “Tyson reminds us that changes in race relations have not come about peacefully or quickly, and he challenges us to see how much remains to be done.”

About Timothy Dyson

Timothy Tyson teaches and writes about the history of African American freedom movements in the 20th century U.S. South.

A senior scholar of documentary studies at Duke University, he holds secondary appointments at Duke’s divinity school and history department and is adjunct professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He was professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1994 until earlier this year and was a John Hope Franklin Fellow at the National Humanities Center in 2004-05.

A North Carolina native, Tyson received a bachelor of arts degree from Emory University in 1987 and a doctorate in philosophy from Duke in 1994.

His Grawemeyer Award-winning 2004 book, Blood Done Sign My Name, also won the Southern Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Last year, it was chosen for summer reading programs at UNC and elsewhere in North Carolina.

His other two books also have won honors.

Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power, published in 1999, earned the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize and James Rawley Prize, both from the Organization of American Historians. Democracy Betrayed: The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and Its Legacy, won Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America.

Tyson is a founding member of the Harmony Bar Writers Collective and has been named a distinguished lecturer by the Organization of American Historians.