Memoir about racially motivated murder
earns international religion award
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 1970, Timothy Tyson was 11 years old and living in Oxford, N.C. when two white men murdered a young black man, Henry Marrow, in cold blood. Marrow’s killers were unjustly acquitted, provoking riots and social upheaval. In his Grawemeyer-winning book, Blood Done Sign My Name, Tyson examines the killing and its aftermath from many angles, and intersperses narration of the historical events with recent interviews of principle players in the real-life drama, including one of the alleged murderers. Tyson also recounts the personal impact of the events, which included the forced resignation of his father, a progressive white Methodist minister, from his pastorate.
“The book explores issues of sin, loss, redemption, conscience, and human decency, and has the gripping, convicting effect of a truthful story. Tyson reminds us that changes in race relations have not come about peacefully or quickly, and provokes us to see how much remains to be done,” said Dr. Susan R. Garrett, professor of New Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary professor and director of the religion award.
Tyson, a senior scholar of documentary studies at Duke University, also holds appointments at Duke’s divinity school and history department and is adjunct professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina. Winner of the 16th Grawemeyer religion prize, his work was selected from among 57 nominations from six countries. (More detailed biographical information below.)
The Grawemeyer Foundation at U of L awards $1 million each year -- $200,000 each for works in music composition, education, ideas improving world order, religion and psychology. The Grawemeyer Award in Religion is given by the university and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Awards founder Charles Grawemeyer, an industrialist, entrepreneur and U of L graduate, wanted to reward powerful ideas or works in the sciences, arts and humanities.
Four of the five 2007 Grawemeyer winners were named this week. Winner of the music composition award will be named March 8 at Carnegie Hall in New York. Tyson will present a lecture on his award-winning book in April at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
For more information and downloadable photos of Tyson and other current winners, go to www.grawemeyer.org.
Biographical Information — Timothy Tyson
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 Ph.D. from Duke in 1994.
His Grawemeyer Award-winning book, Blood Done Sign My Name, published in 2004 by Three Rivers Press, also won the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, the 2004 Christopher Award, and the North Carolinian Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Last year, it was chosen for study by many church groups and 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. He received the Guardian Angel Award from the Methodist Home for Children in Raleigh, N.C. in 2004, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Living Mentor Award from Manhattan Country School in New York City.