Hosea Williams was a prominent civil rights activist in the decades before the Brotherhood March. This photo is from the Atlanta santitiation workers' strike in 1970.
Courtesy of Georgia State University. Special Collections, Tom Coffin Photographs.
Civil rights leader Hosea Williams speaks at an event sometime between 1970 and 1989.
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center, Boyd Lewis Photographs.
Charles Blackburn was the initial local organizer of the Brotherhood March before pulling out due to threats. He left Forsyth County shortly thereafter, as reported by the Forsyth County News in February 1987.
Copyright Forsyth County News. Courtesy of Georgia Newspaper Project, Georgia Historic Newspapers.
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.