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Revealing Family Secrets Surrounding 'A Lynching in Georgia'

Feb. 21, 2017
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In 2015, an updated study documented the number of lynchings that occurred in the American South during the 19th and 20th centuries to include over 700 more killings than had previously been recorded. This new report, released by the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization based in Alabama, determined that 3,959 black Americans were lynched in acts of violent racial terror between 1877 and 1950 (The Washington Post). Lynchings were usually public events (it is where the term “lynch mob” comes from) whereby vigilantes targeted African Americans in all-too-common acts of racial violence without due process of law.

Like much of America’s painful racial past, stories of lynchings leave both black and white descendants haunted by these episodes of horrific extremism and terrible violence. In journalist Karen Branan’s new book, she shares a complex and deeply personal account of a white mob’s killing of four black citizens in 1912. Branan is the great-granddaughter of a Southern sheriff that sanctioned the killings of three innocent men and one woman in Harris County, Ga., and for over two decades, she has combed through extensive research to unearth the gripping true story that she shares in her first book, The Family Tree: A Lynching in Georgia, a Legacy of Secrets, and my Search for the Truth.

Branan’s exhilarating and painful journey to expose the family secrets related to this decades-old murder examines the violence that occurred on a single day in 1912 but it also teaches resounding and poignant lessons about today’s racial tensions. Branan is a veteran journalist whose writing has appeared in Life, Mother Jones, Good Housekeeping and other publications. She will speak at Boswell Book Co. at 3 p.m., on Sunday, Feb. 26 in a free event co-sponsored by the Milwaukee Black Holocaust Museum.

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