Homegrown History

Film version of Duke professor's book released nationwide

 The film version of Duke professor Timothy Tyson's best-selling history and memoir, Blood Done Sign My Name, opened nationwide in February, marking the culmination of a long process of adapting the work for the silver screen.

John Hope Franklin

John Hope Franklin. Credit: Duke Photography


The story focuses on the racially motivated murder of a twenty-three-year-old black U.S. Army veteran, Henry Marrow, in 1970s Oxford, North Carolina, and the resulting social upheaval, which included riots, boycotts, marches, and courtroom battles. Tyson Ph.D. '94 wrote about how his father, Vernon Tyson B.D. '57, the pastor of Oxford's all-white Methodist church, attempted to foster dialogue and healing in the town. He and his family were eventually driven out of town.

Ben Chavis M.Div. '80, a young black activist in Oxford, is played by Nate Parker, an up-and-coming actor who has performed alongside Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker, and whose credits include roles in recent releases such as The Secret Life of Bees and The Great Debaters.

Blood Done Sign My Name The movie was adapted for the screen and directed by Jeb Stuart and was shot in North Carolina. In 2008, playwright and actor Mike Wiley, the current Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in documentary studies and American studies adapted the book for the stage, bringing his one-man performance to Duke that year.

Tyson, whose memoir has garnered praise from both history scholars and faith communities, is a senior scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies and a visiting professor at the divinity school.

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