Race and Reckoning in Forsyth County

1912-2020

The Night Riders

Before Knox and Daniel came to trial in October, white residents had already initiated a wave of violence against their Black neighbors. Similar to those who previously rode as Klansmen or in slave patrols, the region’s poor whites unleashed their terror from horseback at night. The night riders fired guns into homes, shattered windows, and sometimes burned or dynamited houses and outbuildings. The mob also burned the county’s Black churches to the ground. The violence escalated after Mae Crow died on September 23 and only got worse after the October hangings. The message was clear to Black residents: leave Forsyth County.

Not all local whites supported the mob’s actions, however. In mid-October, a group of prominent whites, including Cumming mayor Charlie Harris, sent a letter to Governor Brown begging him to declare martial law and protect Black families—requests that reflected the dependance of large langholders on Black labor. Brown refused, and the violence did not stop until nearly all 1,098 of the county’s Black residents were gone.