Racists Once Terrorized This Georgia County. Diversity Made It Prosper

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Written By Blue & Gold NLR Team



Forsyth County, Georgia, experienced a harsh racial cleansing in 1912, resulting in the expulsion of its Black residents. This event left the county as a whites-only enclave for decades, remaining isolated and stagnant. However, with the expansion of the Atlanta metro area in recent years, Forsyth County has undergone a transformation, becoming more diverse and prosperous, challenging the white supremacist narratives of its past.

The 1912 Tragedy and Its Consequences

In October 1912, the discovery of Mae Crow, a white woman raped and beaten in the woods, led to a mob of white men lynching Rob Edwards, a Black man. Following a sham trial, two Black teenagers, Ernest Knox and Oscar Daniel, were hanged. The violence escalated as white men burned and looted Black homes and farms, forcing approximately 1,100 Black residents, constituting 10% of the population, to flee Forsyth County in just a few days.

The racial cleansing in Forsyth County was not an isolated occurrence but part of a broader pattern of violence and intimidation against Black people during the Jim Crow era in the South. Many counties in the region became “sundown towns,” unwelcoming to Black individuals after dark, with some remaining all-white throughout most of the 20th century.

Forsyth County stood out as one of the most infamous examples of a sundown town, resisting integration and diversity despite the momentum of the civil rights movement. In 1987, civil rights activists organized a march in Forsyth County to protest its racist history. However, they faced hostility from a crowd of white supremacists who threw rocks, bottles, and racial slurs at them. The marchers required police and National Guard escorts.

Forsyth County’s Evolution

Forsyth County’s image as a stronghold of racism and intolerance began to transform in the late 1990s and 2000s with the growth of the Atlanta metro area beyond its borders. The population surged from 45,000 in 1990 to 260,000 in 2020, making it one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. This growth brought economic development and social diversity.

Newcomers to Forsyth County included immigrants from Asia, Latin America, Europe, and Africa, representing various religions, cultures, and backgrounds. The racial and ethnic composition shifted significantly, with the Black population remaining relatively low at 4.4%, while the Hispanic and Asian populations grew to 12.7% and 11.5%, respectively, by 2020.

The increasing diversity was accompanied by improvements in education, income, and quality of life. Forsyth County boasts some of the state’s best public schools, featuring high test scores and graduation rates. The median household income is $105,417, surpassing state and national averages. The county also maintains low crime rates, high home values, and abundant recreational opportunities.

The stark contrast between Forsyth County’s past and present is evident. The once-terrorized community that expelled its Black residents has evolved into a thriving, diverse locale attracting individuals from around the globe. What was once an isolated county is now connected and integrated into the global economy and society. Forsyth County, once a symbol of white supremacy, now stands as a testament to the positive outcomes of diversity and inclusion.


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