Monday, July 20, 2009

Reflections on The Last Mass Lynching in America

I remember hearing about the Moore's Ford lynching practically all my life. It's one of those things that every time my mother mentioned it, I listened but it never seem to have much impact on me until the past few years.

This year, after resurrecting my genealogical research, I kept coming across the Moore's Ford lynching whenever I googled Walton County, Georgia. The more I read the more I wanted to read. Then, it finally started to click - mom's story, Walton County. This happened where my ancestors were from.

My mom was 17 when the Moore's Ford lynching occurred. Mom was only 16 when she left her home in NC to head to GA to the big city of Atlanta to attend Morris Brown College. It was the first time she had left home.

Although NC was and could be brutal, especially the northern end of my home county of Cleveland, and while I'm sure lynchings probably occurred, mom has never talked of them if they did.

My grandparents left Georgia and Walton county behind in the early 1920s, about 20 years before the Moore's Ford lynching occurred. My mom was part of their North Carolina kids and the next to the youngest. While my granddad had told mom and later me about the lynch mobs, the hanging tree, etc. that defined Walton county during his life there, it still didn't prepare a young girl, my mom, from a small NC town for what occurred on July 25, 1946.

I don't know if my mother had returned home to NC for the summer when Moore's Ford occurred or if she remained in Georgia as she has never said. I think she must have been home because she has mentioned she almost didn't go back to Morris Brown.

If you've never heard of the Moore's Ford lynching, it's the lynching of two young black couples, Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey. The four victims were tied up to a tree and shot hundreds of times, in broad daylight, by a mob of unmasked men using rifles, shotguns, pistols and a machine gun. Dorothy Malcom was seven months pregnant at the time and her fetus was cut out of her body.

Shortly after the lynching occurred, my grandmother's sister, Effie, who lived in Walton County, wanted to see her niece, my mother, because she had never seen her. While my mother wanted to see her aunt she was also terrified to go. Mom's cousins, some of aunt Effie's children, that lived and worked in Atlanta drove mom over to Monroe. I don't know how my mother survived that trip. Me personally, I think I would have figured out a way to say no. Anyway, once they got to Walton county, Mom remembers seeing a white man with a shotgun standing by a covered truck and being terrified that it was the Klan and that they were all going to be killed. Thank goodness it wasn't.

No one has ever been brought to justice for the Moore's Ford lynching. Back then folks were too terrified to talk and they still are. And yes, I do believe it still effects my mother, too. As I've tried to plan our research trip, she thinks we should stay in Atlanta and drive over to Walton County and Greene County because she fears that the mentality of Jim Crow hasn't changed much in small Georgia towns since the days she was in college, meaning we aren't going to find a place of lodging that will accommodate us and I must admit that although I myself never lived through the Jim Crow era, I silently am concerned about some of the same things that my mother openly voices concerns about because as the old saying goes "The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same."

This week as we approach the 63rd anniversary of the Moore's Ford Lynching, hopefully we as humans and Americans have learned something from this. And to George Dorsey, Mae Murray Dorsey, Dorothy Dorsey Malcom and Roger Malcom, I pray that one day as improbable as it may be, that the truth about what happened to you on that fateful day be told.

Until Next Time!


  1. Hey Mav,

    My God - what can I say? I read this & shuttered both from the viciousness of the act itself, & from knowing too that my 4th Grandfather, James Wingfield was also lynched - 1885 Wilkes Co.

    I cannot imagine the fear, pain or suffering endured by our Ancestors who found this end.

    I will say that yes, you still have to be cautious living/visiting small Southern towns.

    Although maybe not the dreaded experience of years past, racism & segregation still very much have a place in the culture.

    It is the reason why I can love Wilkes Co. for its history, but have no desire to live there again.

    It is the reason I joked with you about having all your "ducks in a row", when driving through Greene Co.

    It's a sad testimony, of both past & present.


  2. Luckie I remember reading on one of your blogs about your 4th grandfather.

    The Moore's Ford lynching didn't involve my family but just as easily could have since they were from Walton County and family still lived there at the time it occurred. Granddad talked about the lynch mobs going by his house all the time.

    Mom talked about the Moore's Ford lynching so much when I grew up that I started thinking that maybe that is what happened to my one set of great-grandparents because both died when my granddad and his brothers were little. Not saying that it's not possible but as best as we can piece together, the great-grandparents died at different times.

  3. Wow!!! And to think, all this time no one has been brought to justice for this crime.

  4. I know A. I think a few of the suspects are still living but from what I've read, the code of silence and fear is still very much in force even now. I suspect it will take everyone from that generation to die and for a descendant of someone that knew something or that was there for everything to come out.

  5. This is sad indeed. I'm very cautious myself about certain small towns as I live in Texas. My family was always told to stay away from Vidor, Texas and Orange County, Texas areas.

  6. Several years ago, I read "Fire in a Canebrake" by Laura Wexler about the Moore's Ford Lynching. Prior to that, lynchings seemed to me like something horrible that happened in such a distant past. Realizing that particular part of the past is not really so distant had an effect on me.

  7. Stephanie, thanks for stopping by. I just finished reading "Fire in a Canebrake". Through the years, I had heard about this lynching so much from my mom that I thought I knew everything about it. Was surprised to learn that afterwards, the Dorseys moved to my hometown.


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