...an astonishing and thoroughgoing account of the event, its context and its thunderous reverberations ... [Phillips] did a heroic amount of archival spelunking to tell this story, one that still humanizes its subjects and brims with details ... Sometimes, Mr. Phillips gets a bit too granular in his research, bombarding readers with a great many names and places all at once ... But this rookie mistake does not, ultimately, detract from the moral force of Blood at the Root or even how involving it is.
Deeply researched and crisply written, Blood at the Root is an impressive and timely case study of the racial violence and historical amnesia that characterize much of American history. Phillips, a poet and professor, is a gifted storyteller, and it is the accumulation of details that make this story so powerful and disturbing ... By recalling the events in Georgia, Blood at the Root contributes to the urgent national task of reckoning with histories that too many would prefer to forget.
Phillips provides powerful insight into the motives of the various class and business sectors in the county’s white community, which conducted, acquiesced to or benefited from the terror ... Phillips’s goal in this book, however, is not just to tell the tale of whites who rained down violence on their black neighbors but also to capture the voices, hopes, fears and subsequent lives of Forsyth County’s African-American population...This part of the book is the most hopeful, ambitious and, unfortunately, least successful. Phillips’s effort is hampered by the scarce records, biased contemporary newspaper reporting, traumatized family memories and oral histories that are few and far between ... Blood at the Root meticulously and elegantly reveals the power of white supremacy in its many guises.
Blood at the Root provides a fascinating glimpse into how Forsyth County, a farming region in the red clay of the northern Georgia mountains, managed to stave off racial progress despite being only about 40 miles away from Atlanta, the base of operations for civil rights warrior Martin Luther King Jr ... Blood at the Root does an admirable job of piecing together its history based on research and with too few surviving figures. Phillips can be forgiven if some of the narration and character development, in the absence of firsthand accounts, is gathered largely from newspaper reports of the day ... Phillips' book feels timely, unapologetically discussing the way fear, panic, ignorance and timing may have kept Forsyth County trapped in the past.