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County moves ahead with historical marker for 1912 lynching
FCN Forsyth County Administration Building

A new historical marker recognizing a lynching that occurred in 1912 could soon be coming to the Forsyth County Courthouse Annex. 

Forsyth County Commissioners voted unanimously at a work session on Tuesday to approve placing the public marker at the courthouse annex, the former Forsyth County Courthouse building, in remembrance of Rob Edwards, a black man who was lynched in downtown Cumming in 1912. 

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the new sign would go with other historical markers on the property. 

Members of the Community Remembrance Project of Forsyth County approached the county about the marker and have had discussions with commissioners. The group will pay for production and delivery, while the county will pay for installation. 

Since the item was approved without being designated time-sensitive, the matter will officially be decided as part of a consent agenda at an upcoming regular meeting, where members of the group are also expected to make a presentation on the project. 

The marker is the latest of several pushes this year to address the county’s history of racial issues, of which Edwards’ lynching is the most prominent.  

Edwards was beat 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. 

Along with a similar incident days before in which another white woman was allegedly attacked by two black men, the result was the county’s black population, with an estimated 1,100 residents in 1910, according to Census records, were forced out of the county. Two other black men, Ernest Knox and Oscar Daniel, who was arrested at the same time as Edwards, were found guilty for the crime and executed by hanging. 

The county was later the source of national attention in 1987, when Hosea Williams and other civil rights activists marched twice through Cumming and were met by counterdemonstrators from the Ku Klux Klan, the majority of whom were from outside of Forsyth.  

As Forsyth County’s population exploded starting in the 1990s, many tried to distance the county from those events. But several projects have been undertaken recently to address the county’s past. 

In January, 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.  

Also this year, Forsyth’s first Juneteenth celebrations – to honor the day in 1865 when federal orders announced in Galveston, Texas that all slaves were freed due to the Emancipation Proclamation – on June 19 and 20, were planned at Fowler Park and downtown Cumming, respectively.  

Forsyth County Board of Commissioners Charwoman Laura Semanson issued a Juneteenth proclamation to “reflect on this event and recognize it as a day of freedom and jubilation,” where she said, “Racism, hate and prejudice have no place in Forsyth County and will not be tolerated, and we condemn those acts.”

Two weeks before that, about 50 protesters gathered on Friday, June 5 and more than 900 on Saturday, June 6 to protest racism and police violence as part of nationwide protests.