A group of local church leaders launched the Forsyth Descendants Scholarship on Tuesday, Feb. 1, for college-aged descendants of Black families who were driven out of the county in 1912.
This scholarship refers to the period in Forsyth County’s history in which a mob of angry white residents drove nearly the entire Black population out of the county, forcing families to leave land they owned.
Durwood Snead, one of more than 12 church leaders in support of the scholarship, said he hopes it will help to honor these families and give their descendants an opportunity to attend college without significant financial burden.
Now that the four-year, $10,000 scholarship has officially been launched, Snead said those who believe they may be a direct descendant of one of these families can apply between Feb. 15 and April 30.
They hope to award up to 10 scholarships from this year’s applications, which will be applied in August 2022 for the beginning of the school year.
For more information on criteria and the application timeline, families can visit www.forsythscholarship.org.
How this scholarship got started
Snead, now a retired pastor, said he had no idea a year ago that he would be helping to make the scholarship a reality.
He moved to Forsyth County 33 years ago just after the civil rights marches that took place in the county in the 1980s. He remembers hearing about these marches and questioning if this was the right community for him and his family to live.
It wasn’t until last year that Snead started to learn more about the county’s difficult history with race.
He started to read about Oscarville, a community of Black residents who lived in Forsyth before 1912. He and his wife started reading “Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America,” by Patrick Phillips, a book mostly about the events of 1912.
“We wept several times as we read it [and] imagined being one of these … families that, overnight, had to leave,” Snead said. “[They] had to leave their possessions, some of them were landowners. But no matter who you were, you had to leave … go somewhere where nobody wanted you.”
Snead reached out to Phillips to learn more and told him he thought he needed to do something to help.
Phillips told him that the pastor at Browns Bridge Church had reached out and said he also wanted to help.
The two partnered to contact other local pastors and church leaders to talk about what they could do to bring honor to these families.
They decided to create the scholarship and help future generations.
‘One act of love’
Before moving forward, the church leaders, supported by the Forsyth County Ministerial Association, began having conversations with African American community members and friends to ask their thoughts on the scholarship and intent behind it.
“We had so many friends in the African American community who said [they support] it because it is connected directly to something that happened,” Snead said. “And there was loss that occurred to a number of these families, some of them landowners, so there was a generational loss there. But there was also loss in terms of being disrupted from where they lived, where they worked.”
They say they hope the scholarship money, all of which is raised through community donations, will help those who may have suffered from the events of the past.
After talking with community members, Snead and the other organizers emphasized that the scholarship is not meant as reparations or to make up for what happened in 1912.
“It’s just this one act of love from followers of Jesus who want to invite the whole community to be part of hopefully being a blessing to some people,” Snead said.
“That’s why we are trying to say up front, we know this is not enough,” he continued. “This is not justice or reparations, but it’s also really not something that’s attached to another agenda. It’s simply what it is, and we feel like it’s better to do something than nothing.”
Not only do they hope to make a positive impact on these descendants directly, they hope the scholarship can begin a conversation about the events of 1912 and how much Forsyth County has changed.
Snead said they have gotten questions from community members about why they want to bring up this difficult conversation.
“Dealing with truth sets everybody free,” Snead said. “We just set it out there that this happened. It’s not our responsibility, but it did happen.”
He said that, by having these conversations, he hopes it also helps to address the current stigma that others living outside of the county have of Forsyth being one of the most racist counties in Georgia.
Snead pointed out that, in recent years, Forsyth has grown exponentially as a county, drawing in a diverse population of people with different backgrounds, cultures and religions.
By having these conversations and addressing the past, they hope others outside of the county can see how Forsyth has changed and grown.
Meeting with county and community leaders, the group has raised almost $54,000 from individual donors for the scholarship.
Snead said they hope to raise $250,000 before the end of April to help fund up to 10 scholarships for the next school year and hopefully have some in reserve for the following year.
The group emphasized that anyone who believes they are a direct descendant can apply. They have volunteers available to help families find out if they are related to those impacted by the events of 1912.
They have been in contact with descendants already to help spread the word, and they hope to reach as many families as possible both in Forsyth and surrounding counties.
Now that the scholarship has been launched, the group said they hope this starts a conversation within these families about their great- or great-great-grandparents and the injustices they had to fight.
Snead said these often-inspiring stories could help these descendants as they face adversity in their own lives.
In the end, the group simply wants to make sure the scholarship is beneficial to the families and the community.
Find more information at www.forsythscholarship.org.
Faith leaders involved in or in support of the scholarship:
Forsyth County Ministerial Association;
Michael D. Adams, Senior Pastor, Holy Trinity Christian Church;
Todd Cox, Lead Pastor, StonePoint Church;
Robbie Mathis, Senior Pastor, Freedom Tabernacle;
Jonathan Bennett, Executive Pastor, Freedom Tabernacle;
Jon Adams, Lead Pastor, The Vine Community Church;
Adam Johnson, Lead Pastor, Browns Bridge Church;
Durwood Snead, Retired Pastor, North Point Ministries;
Paul Huyghebaert, Lead Minister, Grace Chapel Church of Christ;
Dan Miller, Pastor, Grace Fellowship Church;
Tracy Miller, Associate Pastor, StonePoint Church;
Steve Murray, Pastor, Church at the Oaks.