Family ties to lynching topic of author’s talk Saturday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 2, 2016

Contributed report


LaGRANGE — Karen Branan, author of “The Family Tree: A Lynching in Georgia, a Legacy of Secrets, and My Search for the Truth,” will be featured in a public forum and book signing at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Fackler Room at LaGrange Memorial Library, 115 Alford St.

Branan’s ancestry includes six Harris County sheriffs and numerous state legislators and senators. She spent many years combing the county for black and white residents who remembered or knew details of a 1912 lynching of an African-American woman and three men, one a preacher, next to the Friendship Baptist Church in Hamilton.

The book details her law enforcement families’ role in the lynching and her kinship to one of the lynched men, as well as her discovery of a widespread system of miscegeny in the county during, before and after that era.

Branan said the aim of her book is to encourage white Southerners to explore and come to terms with their families’ and region’s history of racial violence, and the ways that unexamined history acts as a barrier to healthy race relations today. She’ll discuss the ways that racial traumas throughout history impacted her grandparents, parents and herself, as well as how her painful journey of discovery brought an unexpected sense of freedom to work creatively on current race issues.

Joining her Saturday will be Deborah Daniels Dawson, whose ancestors were enslaved by Branan’s ancestors.

A recent Washington Post review of the book noted, “In a peculiar way, ‘The Family Tree’ is a fitting companion to Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel ‘Beloved.’ Her novel dramatizes the generational effect of racial violence … in the haunted consciousness of whites (as well as) the victims … At the same time, there is something exhilarating about confronting the past in all its ugliness and realizing that doing so has made you stronger.

From a press release submitted by LaGrange College. Submit your organization’s press release to editor Matthew Strother at