Harris County, Georgia, 1912. A white man, the beloved nephew of the county sheriff, is shot dead on the porch of a black woman. Days later, the sheriff sanctions the lynching of a black woman and three black men, all of them innocent.
For Karen Branan, the great-granddaughter of that sheriff, this isn't just history; this is family history. Branan spent nearly 20 years combing through diaries and letters, hunting for clues in libraries and archives throughout the United States to piece together the events and motives that led a group of people to murder four of their fellow citizens in such a brutal public display. Her research revealed surprising new insights into the day-to-day reality of race relations in the Jim Crow-era South, but what she ultimately discovered was far more personal.
A gripping story of privilege and power, anger, and atonement, The Family Tree transports listeners to a small Southern town steeped in racial tension and bound by powerful family ties. Branan takes us back in time to the Civil War, demonstrating how plantation politics and the Lost Cause movement set the stage for the fiery racial dynamics of the 20th century.
©2016 Karen Branan (P)2016 Tantor
"A ghastly, dizzying descent into the coldblooded clannishness of the Southern racist mindset." (Kirkus)
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Such a wonderful journey through a family history that illuminates many of the racial issues we are dealing with today. Excessive use of force against blacks by law enforcement is the modern day system of lynching. We can't deal with a modern day problem without first understanding its history.
My family owned slaves in Virginia. Many people may not know their own family history, which is all the more reason to understand this family's history. They are more typical than exceptional and we need to own that in this country.
I would highly recommend this book to readers of every age and background.
As a lifelong amateur genealogist and a Georgia native, I found this book most enlightening. It answered many questions about how my grandmother, who recently died at the age of 101, developed her attitudes, ethics, character and nature. It vastly explained her social history and the environment in which she spent her formative years. I am grateful to the author for her obviously thorough research and her brutally honest depiction of a history we Southerners often hide because it is one we cannot change. This must have been a frightening but oh so necessary venture and the author handles it with a brilliant blend of head and heart.
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