Blood Done Sign My Name
Timothy B. Tyson
An award winning book turned into a successful Hollywood movie, Blood Done Sign My Name tells a story of racist murder and retribution in Oxford, North Carolina,1970. This book mixes autobiography with history. Tim Tyson was 10 years old when Gerald Teel ran into his backyard screaming that his father and older brother “had just shot ‘em a nigger.” That night much of Oxford burned at the hands of angry black residents. Two months later the killer, Robert Teel, was acquitted of murder using the timeworn racist defense that he had been protecting his (white) daughter-in-law from intended sexual assault. No amount of direct evidence to the contrary or legal reasoning to an all-white jury in a rural southern court of law could change that verdict in 1970. But things changed quickly thereafter.
A few black veterans of the Vietnam War had recently come home to Oxford. The war was terrible, but homecoming to the acquittal of white racism was worse. They fought back, burning tobacco warehouses one-by-one until the town council integrated public education. Nobody got hurt which was the difference between white violence and black, though few white people were so discerning. Tyson’s father was one of them. Reverend Tyson was Oxford’s Methodist minister and his mediation between the white and black communities of Oxford accomplished two things. Local whites integrated the schools as a consequence of coming to respect the power of blacks in the community. And the Methodist Church ordered Reverend Tyson to a church a 100 miles down the road.
Blood Done Sign My Name alters the traditional Civil Rights storyline. Passive resistance had no place in Oxford, North Carolina. Only disciplined property violence made civil rights happen. It’s a story of strength, one to learn from.