A Burgeoning Black Community

On the eve of the racial cleansing in 1912, Forsyth County’s Black community included 1,098 Black residents, fifty-eight of whom were landowners. A total of 109 Black families paid the farm tax, which indicates that they either rented or owned their farms, unlike the county’s sharecroppers, who did not own or rent the land they plowed. Other Black residents worked in the county seat of Cumming, some as craftsmen and others as domestic laborers.

Several Black churches were anchors in the community. Pastors like Grant Smith and Levi Greenlee Jr. were both spiritual leaders and outspoken advocates for Black residents. They organized church picnics for their constituents and secured regular tithes even from members of the white community, according to surviving records from Greenlee’s church. By the end of the year, though, their churches were turned to ash, and their worshippers had become refugees.