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Historical marker documenting 1912 lynching unveiled in downtown Cumming
Lynching memorial
Brothers Larry Strickland and Leroy Grogan, whose grandmother Rosalee Strickland, whose maiden name was Brown, was among the black families who were forced out of the area after Rob Edwards’ lynching. They were given the honor of officially unveiling the historical marker in downtown Cumming on Sunday, Jan. 24.

The Community Remembrance Project of Forsyth County, or CRPFC, unveiled a historical marker in downtown Cumming on Sunday, Jan. 24, documenting the events of the 1912 lynching of Rob Edwards, a black man.

In September 1912, Edwards was beaten and killed in his jail cell by a mob of at least 2,000 white residents after being arrested the day before in connection with the alleged rape and murder of Sleety Mae Crow, a white Forsyth County resident. After his death, Edwards’ body was dragged through downtown Cumming and hung from a telephone pole.

“While this marker is the culmination of years of work, it speaks to the current climate in our nation. As our late representative John Lewis once said, ‘peace cannot exist where justice is not served,’” said Jolie Creuser, who is with the remembrance project.

Among those who attended were brothers Larry Strickland and Leroy Grogan, whose grandmother Rosalee Strickland, whose maiden name was Brown, was among the black families who were forced out of the area after Edwards’ lynching. They were given the honor of officially unveiling the historical marker.

According to Creuser, the group, with input from the Historical Society of Cumming/Forsyth County, and the Equal Justice Initiative worked together to create the content of this marker. EJI is the national leader in documenting racial injustice and their partnership demonstrates Forsyth County’s commitment to historical accuracy, context and transparency.

“Nothing in its history has impacted Forsyth County as deeply and uniquely as the events of 1912. In a matter of months, a series of events culminating with the attack and death of Mae Crow, the lynching of Rob Edwards, and the execution of Ernest Knox and Oscar Daniels led to the nearly complete expulsion of an entire race of people from Forsyth County,” said Creuser. 

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Lynching in Forsyth County
The Community Remembrance Project of Forsyth County, or CRPFC, unveiled a historical marker in downtown Cumming on Sunday, Jan. 24, documenting the events of 1912. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

“The events of 1912 impacted every family that lived in the county immediately and for generations to come. Black families had to start over from nothing — leading to generations of financial disparities that still affect their descendants today,” she said. “White families lost the opportunity to experience a diverse culture in which to raise their families.” 

Creuser said that studies show raising children in a diverse environment enhances creativity, improves problem-solving, reduces fear of the unknown, and provides a variety of worldviews that foster inclusion and compassion.

In January 2020, members of the Community Remembrance Project of Forsyth County, the Historical Society of Forsyth County and the Equal Justice Initiative came together to remember Edwards and collect two jars of soil with his name and date of death — one that will stay in Forsyth and one that will go to EJI’s Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama — from outside the Forsyth County Administration Building, near the site where Edwards’ body was hanged.

Due to the high rate of community spread of COVID-19, the group was unable to open Sunday’s event up to the public but hope to have a ceremony in the fall.

“We want to thank our county commissioners, public servants, community members and everyone else who supported this work. The events of 1912 permanently changed the demographic and reputation of this county,” said Creuser. “This marker will be a tangible display of the truth and reconciliation that we need to move forward. We cannot achieve unity without accountability.”

Memorial
Workers install the historical marker at the corner of East Courthouse Square and West Maple Street. - photo by Kelly Whitmire