Blood at the Root Summary & Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 48-page guide for “Blood at the Root” by Patrick Phillips includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 18 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Erasure of Historical Events and Economic Concerns as a Motivation for Racial Violence.
Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America, Patrick Phillips’ first nonfictional book, is an expertly crafted narrative of the horrific racial violence that took place during the 20th century in Forsyth County, Georgia. Published in 2016, the book quickly gained critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and the Smithsonian. The skillfully researched text includes primary documents from turn of the century Forsyth, in addition to descriptions based on recent interviews with descendants of people involved. Phillips was a child in Forsyth during the 1970s, who eventually chose to write Blood at the Root because of witnessing firsthand the strife caused by the racial violence in his hometown.
Though the text sometimes moves back and forth between periods, it mainly follows a chronological narrative to describe Forsyth County before, during, and after 1912. The events of this particular year are both the result of and cause of racial tensions in post-emancipation Georgia. Before 1912, indigenous people—the Cherokee tribe—had been forcibly removed from the land and pushed into removal camps. In 1912, a series of racially violent events exiled all black residents from Forsyth County. After 1912, the county slowly moved into an erasure of these historical events, though tensions resurfaced in the 1980s. Presently, Forsyth County is a slowly diversifying, successful suburb of Atlanta; however, there is no public recognition of the events of 1912.
After two somewhat related attacks on white women, white people in Forsyth became riotous, demanding justice in the form of the murder of young black men assumed to be the attackers. Despite any evidence besides forced confessions, most of the accused were murdered either through mob violence or through court-ordered hanging.
Simultaneously, white night riders terrorized black families by burning down homes and churches, and destabilizing the black community. By the end of 1912, there were almost no black residents in Forsyth County. The result was a whites-only county for decades.
In the 1980s, white Forsyth’s stasis was threatened by black outsiders once again, causing a new series of racist incidents where white people acted violently towards people of color. In 1987, outside activists brought national attention to the circumstances in Forsyth through two Brotherhood Marches. Despite these, the real eventual change in Forsyth came about by a shifting housing and economic landscape; Forsyth diversified simply because it became a more attractive place to live in proximity to nearby Atlanta.
Blood at the Root closes with Phillips’ own commentary on the depth of pain caused by the white violence in Forsyth over the course of the 20th century. Overall, the narrative of the text challenges contemporary readers to consider the circumstances of history, location, and story—and how violence and erasure can irrevocably shape all three.