The Organizers

Charles Blackburn moved to Cumming from San Francisco in the early 1980s. After learning that his Black friends feared Forsyth County, he organized a walk against “fear and intimidation.” Blackburn selected January 17, 1987—the weekend of the second-ever Martin Luther King Jr. Day—for a march marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of the 1912 expulsion. He wanted to show that Cumming’s racial violence was in the past. Soon after his announcement, though, Blackburn began receiving death threats, prompting him to cancel the march.

Dean Carter, a white construction worker who lived in nearby Gainesville, decided to continue the march, and he involved Atlanta-based civil rights activist Hosea Williams. During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Williams was a leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights luminaries. In 1965, he jointly organized the first Selma-to-Montgomery march with John Lewis—a day known as “Bloody Sunday." Now a city councilman in Atlanta, Williams agreed to lend his time, expertise, and connections to organize a small march in Forsyth County.