The award-winning poet who grew up in Forsyth County and penned his first nonfiction work about the 1912 racial cleansing of Forsyth that left the county without a single black resident until the 90s is set to speak at a church in Cumming this weekend.
Patrick Phillips, author of “Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America,” will talk to the public about his book, which immediately garnered nationwide reviews and attention, on Saturday, April 8 at 4 p.m. at Cumming First United Methodist Church at 770 Canton Highway.
“Following our initial order of books, we’ve added additional print, eBook and eAudiobook versions to address patron demand for the material,” said Stephen Kight, assistant director for public services Forsyth County Public Library.
“Before it came out, it was up to 105 holds, and we purchased 23 copies [in hardcover],” said Linda Kelly, assistant director for materials, the week the book was released in September 2016.
Four audiobook copies received 18 holds, Kelly said.
The program, called An Afternoon with Patrick Phillips, is being organized by the four-branch public library system along with Cumming First United Methodist Church. Admission is free, and registration can be completed online at forsythpl.org.
The book, published by W.W. Norton & Company, recounts the history of racial violence in Forsyth County.
While its narrative, a blending of poetic lyricism and journalistic fact-based research, spans from the native Cherokee removals in the 1830s to the 20,000-strong civil rights march through downtown Cumming in January 1987, Phillips centers his research on the events of September 1912.
That was the last time any of Forsyth’s 1,098 black residents were allowed in their homes, a racial ban that lasted well into the 1990s.
Night riders drove every non-white resident from their land after the rape and beating death of an 18-year-old white woman — the first on the Cumming square not three days after Mae Crow was found.
“Sitting on the school bus in Forsyth County, I understood that for the kids around me, the color line was not drawn between rich and poor, not between white employers and black servants,” Phillips wrote in the book’s introduction, “but between all that was good and cherished and beloved and everything they thought evil, and dirty, and despised.”’
Until he broke into nonfiction, Phillips has made a name for himself as an award-winning poet.
He has published three books of poetry, including “Chattahoochee,” the Kate Tufts Discovery Award winner, and “Elegy for a Broken Machine,” a finalist for the National Book Award.
Copies of “Blood at the Root” are available for purchase at local bookstores and online, along with other works of poetry by Phillips. Barnes and Noble will have copies of the book available for purchase at the event.
Phillips will sign books for attendees at a reception following his talk.