Multicultural American Literature GLL 232
23 April 2019
“Daddy and Roger and ‘em shot ‘em a nigger.” This statement helped define the culture and environment of Oxford, North Carolina and America for Timothy Tyson, an 11-year-old white American. Growing up in the seventies south, Tyson was exposed to many events that influenced his idea of racial discrimination and shaped the culture of his life. One main event he chronicles to have impacted his standard of culture was the death of Henry Marrow, an African American army veteran gunned down by a white man on May 11, 1970. Tyson uses his novel “Blood Done Signed My Name” to recount the events that shaped his culture and relies on the elements of fiction to exercise his points on race, equality, and culture of the south during the Civil Rights Movement and years before. Tyson lived in a time where race, segregation, and inequality were at the forefront of his exposure to culture. Culture as experienced through the eyes of Tyson was greatly defined by the killing of Henry Marrow and the events leading up to and after this occurred and expressed this impact through the elements of fiction.
Timothy Tyson describes his family as the typical southerners. Tyson’s father was a Methodist preacher and his mother was a school teacher. Although Tyson describes his moving from place to place, his family couldn’t help remaining in North Carolina. Tyson uses elements of the ideal southerner as a means to describe his connection to his southern culture: “ My family was as southern as fried okra and sweet tea…We ate collards and cornbread, pork barbeque and banana pudding…Tyson children often had double names- I had cousins called Thomas Earl and George Hart and so on” (Tyson 11). Southerners are known for their culinary classics including fried foods and pork cuisines. Despite being white, Tyson shares the same cultural experience as most southerners of that time period.
The Civil Rights Movement played a pivotal role in the culture of the people in Oxford, NC and nationwide. The constant fight for equality amongst blacks and whites was at the center of the problem in Tyson’s story. The plot of segregation and racial tension in “Blood Done Sign My Name” helps define the culture of the nation at that time in history. Not only were there separate schools for blacks and whites, there were also separate stores, separate sections in movie theaters, separate drinking fountains, restaurants, bathrooms, and even churches: “Black people did not work at the bank or at the stores downtown, nor anywhere where they might have direct contact with white customers, Restaurants did not hire blacks to wait tables- and white diners would not have wanted black hands to bring them their meals, although everyone knew that black hands in the kitchen had patted out the biscuit dough and fried the chicken” (Tyson 17). The white culture established itself as a supreme race and as a result, blacks w...