Fortress Press

Open Wounds: A Story of Racial Tragedy, Trauma, and Redemption

Open Wounds

A Story of Racial Tragedy, Trauma, and Redemption

Phil Allen Jr. (Author)


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On December 10, 1953, tragedy was visited on a family when Nathaniel Allen was murdered on the Sampit River by his white employer, who lured him into the meeting under the false promise of reconciliation. Allen's death was recorded as an accidental drowning, a deliberate cover-up of the bullet hole seen by more than one witness.

Three generations later, Phil Allen Jr. revisits this harrowing story and recounts the "baton of bitterness" that this murder passed down in his family.

Through interviews, difficult conversations, and deep theological reflection, Allen takes up the challenge of racism today, naming it for what it is and working to chart a path toward reconciliation.

Open Wounds, and the documentary that accompanies it, is a transformative experience of listening and learning as a grandson looks, laments, an ultimately leads his family and his society forward toward a just and reconciled future. It's an essential part of our national reckoning with racism and injustice.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506469331
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 224
  • Publication Date February 9, 2021


"Phil Allen's story is as unique as any personal, multi-generational African-American tragedy can be. And that means the narrative is also a painfully common one. Open Wounds names the reality: for himself, for his family, for this nation. What makes Allen's story so powerful is his pursuit of the facts, the implications, and the risks of healing. But in the end, it is less a hero's journey, and more a communal story of lived faith, honest communion, and dogged hope."

Mark Labberton, President, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Phil Allen has written a must-read personal narrative for anyone grappling with intergenerational trauma. Open Wounds highlights unresolved and cyclical pain associated with racism in the American South, while offering tools for embarking on a journey towards healing."

Tanya E. Walker-Bethea, associate professor, Winston-Salem State University

"Phil Allen has written a haunting and painfully honest book. Open Wounds is the story of yet another black family forced to deal with the tragedy of racial terror and the trauma it inflicts on the entire family over generations. Fortunately, the story does not end with racial trauma, it unveils the journey towards racial healing and offers a way for others to experience the process to racial wholeness."

John Williams, Director, Center for Racial Reconciliation

"Phil Allen reveals the pain of racial wounds and the power of the healing God. Allen takes you on a painful journey into healing and wholeness. Allen echoes lingering pain of hidden hurts, and the revelation of the power of the God who heals."

Kenneth C. Ulmer, Presiding Bishop, The King's University

"Phil Allen is among the most gifted leaders I have had the privilege to meet. Everything he does is exceptional, from being an athlete, a model, a poet, a preacher, and now an author. Nothing remains the same after Phil touches it. It is only fitting that Open Wounds and the issue of racial injustice is addressed by this prolific personality. Who better to reach back from his many accomplishments to festering issues others have overlooked, or deliberately ignored and bring redemptive solutions."

Larry Titus, President, Kingdom Global Ministries and author of The Teleios Man

"It is only in the most technical sense of the word that Phil Allen Jr. was once a doctoral student of mine. In actual fact, in numerous ways that extend far beyond the classroom, I am his student. It is an honor to learn from him. Full Stop. But in times like this, his wisdom has never been more necessary and urgent, for it quite literally concerns the difference between life and death. I can't force you to sit at Phil's feet as he teaches us. But I invite you to do so. Speaking from personal experience, I promise you that, if you do, you will never be the same."

Kutter Callaway, Fuller Theological Seminary, Co-Director Reel Spirituality and author of The Aesthetics of Atheism

Open Wounds is a masterfully written gem. Phil writes on a topic that too many of us carry: pain. He captures something that many of us have developed: resilience. He illuminates what we all need: healing. It's a must read!

Johnny C. Shelton Chaplain, Spiritual Advisor & Life Coach, Baltimore Ravens

"Phil Allen weaves a powerful truth of sin, violence, tragedy and pain, which was wrong every which way you see it but prevalent and largely justified by white Americans more than 60 years ago. The ongoing struggles to cope with anger, passing that anger from generation to generation leaves a permanent mark of traumatic distress."

Reena Evers-Everette, Executive Director, Medgar & Myrlie Evers Institute

"Open Wounds takes us inside the trauma center of African American racial pain. Allen uses the intergenerational lens of his father's traumatic loss to explain black rage as the abused offspring of white supremacy. This is a must read for all interested in the racial healing of the United States of America."

Jerry Taylor, Abilene Christian University

"Phil Allen tells a profoundly moving story of the generational impact of a family trauma. White Christians who are seeking to understand the response of anger to incidents that lead to the death of Black men and women should listen carefully to this narrative."

Susan L. Maros, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Phil Allen's masterful use of prose, story, and theological frameworks allow the reader to experience a narrative that is all too intimate for some and absolutely remote for others. While many are dealing with racism and systemic evils in theoretical arenas, Allen crafts an invitation to the living room of concretized and experienced ramifications in order to arrive at approaches to healing that represent an embodied theology."

Dwight Radcliff, Fuller Theological Seminary