The Civil Rights Movement, reiterated like a movie of the week
Blood Done Signed my Name
Based on the novel by civil rights historian Timothy Tyson, the title of the book and this film, Blood Done Signed my Name, are taken from a eulogy offered by the reverend Golden Frinks at the funeral of Dickie Marrow, a victim of the struggle for civil rights for black people in the United States of America. If you don’t know the names you can’t be blamed, the late Golden Frinks was an obscure figure at the heart of the movement, and Dickie Marrow, a Viet Nam veteran beat and shot to death before witness on the streets of Oxford, NC, met his death at the hands of bigots in 1970. The murder and trail of the Teel family, and the march to Raleigh that launched the career of the late civil rights leader Dr. Benjamin Chavis (like Davis), are ostensibly the subjects of Blood Done Signed my Name. Ultimately, however, the movie is about the fact that there was a civil rights movement at all, and incidents like the murder of Dickie Marrow necessitated that movement—deep into the 1970s and beyond. This is a damn good TV movie, but it’s Black History Month, so it may do a little business.
The film has two frames: the aforementioned events are told from the perspective of a young Dr. Chavis, a high school teacher returned to his home post-college to make a go of his Grandfather’s restaurant. The second narrative is told from the perspective Tim Tyson, the son of the Reverend Vernon Tyson. Tim was 10 years old in 1970 when his father was made Pastor of an all white Methodist church in the city of Oxford. Rev Tyson was a rabble-rouser for civil rights at a time and in a place where rabble-rousers were not welcome. Still, he invited the first black pastor to give a sermon to that all white congregation.
Though the events associated with the murder of Dickie Marrow by the Teel family effected both the Chavis’ and the Tyson’s deeply, and indeed the subsequent events set all their lives on paths that they may not have taken otherwise, the Tyson’s and the Chavis’ did not intersect directly in life or in this film. Which may simply reflect the facts, but nevertheless leaves one feeling a lack of closure. Or, perhaps the lack of closure is an actual lack of closure.
An aside, writer director Jeb Stuart is a co-writer on the original Die Hard film (1988), and is a native of Little Rock Arkansas, born in 1956.
Cast: Nate Parker, Rick Schroder, Michael Rooker, Cullen Moss, Lela Rochon and Nick Searcy.
Director/Screenwriter: Jeb Stuart
Producers: Jeb Stuart and Mari Stuart
Rating: PG-13 for an intense scene of violence, thematic material involving racism, and for language.
Running time: 128 min
Release date: February 19 ltd.
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