The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, January 02, 2004

Another last in the lynching taxonomy - and a Strom-Essie Mae connection (kinda)

Previously, we established here [1] (subject to further and better particulars, as ever) that the last lynching of the type one writer called the public torture lynching was that which took place in April 1937 in Duck Hill, MS.

A candidate for the last mass lynching is that which took place at Moore's Ford Bridge (crossing the Apalachee River) in Walton County, GA on July 25 1946 of George and Mae Murray Dorsey and Roger and Dorothy Malcom.

The lynching is the subject of a book by Laura Wexler, Fire in a Canebrake [2] - a piece with a link to an NPR interview with the author says
...the mob was really after only one member of the group, Roger Malcom, 24, who had been arrested for knifing a white man while drunk. Roger Malcom had just been bailed out of jail by a white landowner and they were passing over the Moore's Ford Bridge when the killers appeared. The landowner later said his black passengers were dragged out of the car and down an embankment. When found, Roger Malcom's body had been mutilated.

According to a review of the book [3],
Wexler takes us back to the beginning when a black man, Roger Malcolm [sp?], stabs a white man, Barnett Hester, for allegedly having an affair with his common law wife, Dorothy. As Barnett lingers near death, Roger sits in jail counting his days left on earth. Eleven days later when Barnett recovers, Roger is then set free when his bail is posted by Loy Harrison, a wealthy landowner and landlord to George Dorsey (Dorothy's older brother) and his common law wife, Mae Murray. It is returning home from the jail that Roger, Dorothy, George, and Mae are dragged from Loy's car by an angry mob of white men and are murdered in cold blood. Loy claims he did not and could not recognize any of the attackers which was why his life was spared on that fateful day.....

A 2001 Athens Banner-Herald piece reports on a remembrance service attended by Clinton Adams, a white man who witnessed the lynching as a ten year old boy,
...laying on his belly at the edge of a pine thicket as more than a dozen men pumped dozens of bullets into the four lynch victims' bodies.

A May 2003 Banner-Herald piece noticed a public forum to be held locally on the subject.

Otherwise, not much to be found online, that I've seen so far.

From the Strom-Essie Mae angle, there seems to have been something of a sea-change in power relations between 1925 and 1946 for a cuckolded Negro to dare to wreak vengeance on his wife's white fancy-man! Although the facts are wanting for any definitive statement, they do at least point to the perils of supposing the existence of anything approaching stasis in race relations in the South in the Jim Crow period: World War 2, the white primaries case (Smith v Allwright - previously dealt with here), internal Negro migration, amongst a pile of other factors, must have had their effect in changing attitudes and expectations on both sides.

And, of course, Strom Thurmond was elected Governor of South Carolina in 1946 as a liberal. (In Southern terms, that is.)

The suggestion is made that the Walton County lynching had some wider national effect - in particular, in spurring Harry Truman to go further on civil rights than he would otherwise have done; I'll have to take that under advisement, I think.

  1. Start at the December 20 piece, and work back for links


  2. The source for the title:
    Wexler took the title from the way local people describe the lynchings. "A canebrake is a thicket of river cane, which almost looks like bamboo. If you were to light a fire in the area of where this canebrake was, the hollow cane stalks explode and they make a sound like gunshots."
  3. Which calls the book a novel - as ever, caveat lector!

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