MONROE — Each year since 2005, a multiracial group of activists has re-enacted a lynching at Moore’s Ford Bridge in Walton County that took place on July 25, 1946.
This year’s 13th-annual re-enactment, held Saturday, was hosted by Moore’s Ford Movement Chairman Tyrone Brooks, Coordinator Minister Hattie Lawson and directed by the Rev. Cassandra Greene.
The Commemoration Performance tells the story of the two African-American couples, George and Mae Murray Dorsey and their unborn child, and Roger and Dorothy Dorsey Malcom, who were shot and hanged by local members of the Ku Klux Klan.
The purpose of the re-enactment is to campaign for prosecution of surviving perpetrators and more broadly to call attention to the long national history of violence against persons of color.
As a ritual, each performance bridges experiences of racial violence and injustice while raising the promise of reconciliation.
The day’s events began with the morning commemoration program/pre-enactment rally at the First African Baptist Church in Monroe. Invited guest speakers included national and local civil and human rights clergy and political leaders who gave speeches and remembered victims of lynchings throughout the U.S., and led meditation and prayers for justice. Among them were Raynita Alexander, niece of Maceo Snipes.
Snipes, a World War II veteran, was the only African-American who voted in his Georgia District in 1946. The next day, he was shot and killed by Klansman Edward Williamson (aka Edward Cooper).
Following the rally, a motorcade of more than 60 cars and motorcycles left the church to visit the three burial sites of the victims, located at the old First African Baptist Church burial grounds on Alcovy Street in Monroe, the Chestnut Grove Baptist Church in Rutledge and the Mount Perry Baptist Church in Bishop. At each site family members of the Malcoms and Dorseys spoke to the crowd of viewers and participants about the continued impact of these deaths on the family’s motivation to seek justice and spread awareness.
The motorcade advanced to the old Monroe Jail where the re-enactment performance began, and ended at the Moore’s Ford Bridge.
For bystanders, the performance seemed to be unsettling as they watched actor Walter Brown-Reeves standing on the steps of the courthouse spewing racial hatred delivering a historic speech by then-Gov. Eugene Talmadge with convincing passion.
The atrocity made the national news in 1946. Martin Luther King Jr., then 17 years old, wrote to President Harry S. Truman, who in turn ordered J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI to bring the killers to justice. But despite a dossier in which 55 suspects were named, no witness was willing to testify before a grand jury. To this day, the crime has gone unpunished.
Brooks and fellow activists said they will not rest and plan to petition the FBI to release the names of the suspects.
Bob Caine, a cast member playing a racist townsmen and Klansman, supports Brooks’ movement as a member of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition.
Being Jewish, he said he and his wife, Jeanie, also a cast member, are all too familiar with Southern racism.
“Me and my husband have been a member of this cast for 10 years and we are proud to be a part of this necessary campaign for justice,” Jeanie Caine said.
This year’s performance drew the attention of many local and national press including NBC and The New York Times.