Actor Ed Arnold, dressed as former Georgia Gov. Eugene Talmadge, gives a race-baiting campaign speech, much like the one the Democrat is believed to have made in 1946, Wednesday, July 25, 2007, near the bridge where a white mob lynched two black couples 61 years ago in Monroe, Ga. Photo: AP/World Wide PhotosThe lynchings of Roger and Dorothy Malcom, and George and Mae Murray Dorsey on July 25, 1946 have long been a source of racial tension in Monroe, a town about 45 miles east of Atlanta.
MONROE, Ga. (AP) - Steps away from the bridge where a White mob lynched two Black couples 61 years ago, an actor playing former Georgia Gov. Eugene Talmadge spewed racist invective to a mostly Black crowd, promising that Jim Crow laws would stay in place forever.
Behind him, the mob started gathering with fake rifles, shotguns and a hanging rope to recreate the unsolved murders of the two couples, who were dragged from a car, tied to a tree and killed in a hail of gunfire on July 25,1946.
The re-enactment, which was staged for the third time on July 25, is more than a yearly ritual. It’s an annual call for justice, a plea to the remaining witnesses of the murders to come forward with evidence to crack the case.
Included in pamphlets handed out to the dozens who attended the scene was contact information for state and federal investigators, and every few minutes came the reminder that there’s still hope to solve the case.
“Here we are, a generation from the lynching at the bridge, and here we are, raising the question: Where is the justice?” said the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a past president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “We are not acting vindictive, or for revenge. We’ve lost our sense of sacredness of human life, and that’s a damaging thing.”
The lynchings of Roger and Dorothy Malcom, and George and Mae Murray Dorsey on July 25, 1946 have long been a source of racial tension in Monroe, a town about 45 miles east of Atlanta.
White farmer Loy Harrison, who was driving the two couples home, said he was ambushed by a White mob that surrounded his car and pulled the two couples out, dragged them down a nearby trail and killed them. One of the victims, Dorothy Malcom, was seven months pregnant.
President Truman dispatched FBI agents to Monroe, a town about 45 miles east of Atlanta. But the local community—both Black and White—clammed up, and although 55 suspects were identified, no one was ever arrested.
The activists seem to have renewed energy.
The lynching is among a dozen other unsolved cases from the civil rights era that the FBI has recently opened, and activists say they’re confident witnesses and suspects to the murders are still alive. And recent revelations that state officials may have somehow been involved in the killings have become somewhat of a rallying cry to organizers.
“We’ve got the right message, the right spirit. Now it’s time to go,” exclaimed Darryl Elligan, president of Atlanta’s Concerned Black Clergy.
An Associated Press review of the FBI case file revealed that authorities investigated suspicions that Mr. Talmadge, a three-time governor, sanctioned the murders in an effort to woo White rural voters during a tough re-election campaign.
The 3,725-page file makes no conclusions about the killings, and Mr. Talmadge’s family denies the accusations. But the filings do raise the possibility that Mr. Talmadge’s politics played a role, and note that he met with a suspect in the killings days before the murders.
He died in 1946, just after his re-election to another term. But the actor playing him stood in the middle of the road leading to Moore’s Ford Bridge, a thin span near where the killings took place. He fiddled with his red suspenders, while addressing the crowd of about 100 how he hoped to keep Blacks in their place if elected.
Around 6 p.m., a car carrying actors playing the two couples skidded to the side of the road. The four were whisked from the cars, lined up in the middle of a field and shot in three volleys of gunfire. Packets of ketchup exploded on their chests as photographers circled the victims. “Good job, boys,” the mob’s leader said.
It was an uncomfortable role for the actors playing the White mob, many of whom are civil rights activists or anti-war demonstrators.
“I had to move through some attitude changes to get to this point,” said Ed Arnold, a nonprofit executive who played Mr. Talmadge. “It’s hard to be a race-baiting politician in 2007. It’s a very unusual experience if your principles are grounded in justice.”
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