This story is one of the most depressing and hurtful accounts of lynchings in American history that we have had to report in our existence as a platform.
This is a bitter account of how four African American sharecroppers were lynched at Moore’s Ford in northeast Georgia on July 25, 1946. The event is now described as the “last mass lynching in America.” The killers of George Dorsey, Mae Murray Dorsey, Roger Malcolm, and Dorothy Malcolm were never brought to justice.
The violence and public outcry surrounding the event reflected the growing African-American challenges to Jim Crow in the post-World War II years, as well as the failures of state and federal authorities to address racial inequality and violence in the South.
A fight between Roger Malcolm and his wife Dorothy sparked the crisis that unfolded in mid-July in Walton County, just sixty miles outside of Atlanta.
On July 14, Malcolm was arrested by local authorities after stabbing white overseer Barnette Hester who had intervened in the domestic conflict. Hester may have had a sexual relationship with Dorothy Malcolm.
On July 25, eleven days after this assault, J. Loy Harrison, white landowner drove Dorothy Malcolm and fellow sharecroppers George and Mae Murray Dorsey to the Monroe, Georgia, jail to bail out Roger Malcolm.
Harrison and the two couples were stopped on their return trip by a large white mob near the Moore’s Ford Bridge on the Apalachee River.
What happened next was hotly debated by Harrison and other witnesses. Loy Harrison was reputed to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, as were many others who gathered at Moore’s Ford Bridge.
Ultimately, the mob beat the sharecroppers before tying them to a tree and shooting them to death. George Dorsey was a World War II veteran recently returned from service in the Pacific while Dorothy Malcolm was seven months pregnant.
The public nature of this attack gained national press attention. In Georgia, lame-duck Governor Ellis Arnall, recently defeated in a bid for a second term in the 1946 Democratic gubernatorial primary race because of his limited support of African American voting rights, pushed the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to assist local authorities in a search for the killers.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leaders rallied public attention to the crime to force action by the federal government.
Ultimately, U. S. President Harry Truman offered a $12,500 reward for information and directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to take action in the case.
Truman later referenced the Moore’s Ford lynching as influencing his decision to create the President’s Committee on Civil Rights and to integrate the military in 1948.
There were no prosecutions for the crime committed at Moore’s Ford despite these actions. FBI investigators gathered shell casings and bullets from the tree where the four sharecroppers were executed but found no witnesses willing to testify as to the identities of the perpetrators, even though at least fifty-five individuals were reported to have participated in the mob action.
Walton County convened a grand jury to hear evidence about the crime but no indictments followed. The NAACP, frustrated with the lack of justice and other reports of violence toward servicemen returning from World War II, used the case to promote an anti-lynching bill in Congress but membership in chapters of the NAACP across the South dropped in the 1940s out of fear of retribution from the KKK and white mobs and the state’s white power structure.
Attention was brought to the Moore’s Ford lynching by renewed interest in Georgia’s civil rights struggle in the late twentieth century. In the 1960s, civil rights activist Bobby Howard worked with the NAACP to renew calls for justice in the case.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigations and the FBI both returned to the case in 2004, questioning many now-elderly witnesses and doing more forensic investigations. These investigations have largely been stalled due to witnesses maintaining their silence about the events of Moore’s Ford.
Although the investigations have not produced convictions, ongoing local efforts keep the Moore’s Ford lynchings in public view. An interracial group of citizens in Walton County created the Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee in 1997 to establish a historical marker at the bridge site. Public re-enactments of the lynchings have become an annual tradition in the region, starting in 2005.
When we write about these inhumane acts against our people, the world asks us to forget and move on – the same world that has not stopped crying over the Jewish Holocaust.
They want to remember the genocide perpetrated by Hitler but refuse to allow us the space to remember the African holocaust, which still takes place today.
We report these horrific accounts so that our people will treat the memories of our ancestors with more dignity, knowing full well what they passed through to preserve our bloodline – our lineage.
Fathers and mothers should teach this to their children, so they know what happened yo their ancestors, and can identify such behavior when they encounter it in today’s world.
Our ancestors paid the ultimate price for our partial-freedom today – all they ask of you is to remember and share their stories with others around you.
We shall overcome!
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