Synopses & Reviews
In the tradition of Slaves in the Family
, the provocative true account of the hanging of four black people by a white lynch mob in 1912—written by the great-granddaughter of the sheriff charged with protecting them.
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 after the sheriff is sworn into office, he allows the lynching of a woman and three men, all African American. Now, in a personal account like no other, the great-granddaughter of that sheriff, Karen Branan, digs deep into the past to deliver a shattering historical memoir a century after that gruesome day.
In researching her familys history, Branan spent nearly twenty years combing through diaries and letters, visiting the Harris County countryside and courthouse, and conversing with community elders to piece together the events and motives that led up to the lynching. But this is more than a historical narrative; throughout, Branan weaves her own personal reflections about coming into touch with difficult, inexplicable feelings surrounding race and family, and ultimately challenging her own self-image as an educated, modern woman who transcends the racism practiced and experienced by the people who raised her. Part of that came with uncovering a startling truth: Branan is not only related to the sheriff; she is a relative of one of the four African Americans as well.
A story of racism, power, jealousy, and greed, The Family Tree transports readers to a small Southern town entrenched in racial tension and bound by family ties. What emerges is a gripping explanation of that awful day in history, but also the crucial issues that follow us into the present.
"The Family Tree offers an in-depth study of the history of Southern race relations, particularly in Georgia. The narrative of the lynching is told thrillingly...but it is Branan's personal perspective and soul-searching that makes this history insightful, relevant and memorable."
"With resolve, [Branan] fires an explosive charge into her complex genealogy, reforming the blasted shards into a smoldering bush of ghosts." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Enlightening...important." Booklist, starred review
"Both a deeply personal narrative infused with a charming Southern flavor and a compelling historical journey...A ghastly, dizzying descent into the coldblooded clannishness of the Southern racist mindset." Kirkus, starred review
About the Author
Karen Branan is a veteran journalist who has written for newspapers, magazines, stage, and television for almost fifty years. Her work has appeared in Life, Mother Jones, Ms., Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Todays Health, Learning, Parents, Star Tribune (Minneapolis), The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and on PBS, CBS, ABC, CBC, BBC, and CNN.