The Tarboro Three: Rape, Race, and Secrecy
by Brian Lampkin
Brian Lampkin’s story of the Tarboro 3 adds an important chapter to our understanding of the history and volatility of race relations in the South. In re-visiting the final days of and traumas that beset forced school integration in a small eastern North Carolina town, Lampkin reminds readers today of how violence—in this case, the 1930 lynching of Oliver Moore–and threats of violence thread through African-American communities in ways that white Americans seem unable to fathom.
– Alex Albright, author of The Forgotten First: B-1 and the Integration of the Modern Navy.
SECRECY is perhaps the key word in this history: when to keep secrets and when to reveal the “truth.” Ah, the truth! How can we know it? Brian Lampkin studies the history of racism. He also explores his own history—his father’s pain, his daughters’ medical condition, his own self-doubts about what he learns of the truth. Revelations about the woman who charged three black men with rape, about the people of Tarboro, NC, and about his family, friends and himself are offered with trepidation, even though he says, “My prejudice is toward the opening of buried secrets and the resurrection of disappeared history.” In the process he achieves a rethinking of what history—the writing thereof—actually is: not a sterile list of events, but a rendering of the human condition in its rich ambiguity. -David Landrey, author of Consciousness Suite
In lucid, engaging prose, Brian Lampkin tells the story of three black men wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in Tarboro, North Carolina, who faced execution until Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center appealed the case and freed them. Lampkin’s own story twines with this one in subtle and surprising ways, as he meditates on racism, fear, culture, and parenthood. The Tarboro Three stands with books like Timothy Tyson’s Blood Done Sign My Name, a raw and honest mix of memoir and history, reminding us of William Faulkner. The past is not dead. It is not even past. This is a book America needs now. – Liza Weiland, author of Paris, 7 A.M.