Christian Chronicle

In Georgia county with history of racial violence, Christians seek unity

‘It’s mentally hard for a lot of folks to cross that county line,’ Black minister says.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

CUMMING, Ga. — Kelvin Teamer stood on the stage of the Grace Chapel Church of Christ and marveled at the crowd.

In this small town about 40 miles northeast of Atlanta, about 600 Christians — Black, White and Hispanic — filled the pews for a special unity service Sunday.

“It’s good to be in Forsyth County this morning!” proclaimed Teamer, evangelist for the Bouldercrest Church of Christ in Atlanta.

“Amen! Amen!” the crowd responded.

“Now there was a time not long ago,” the Black minister added, “when somebody who looked like me would never say anything like that. But God is having his way here today.”

Teamer alluded to the ugly racial past of Forsyth County, which remained nearly all-White into the 1990s. Cumming, with a population of about 6,500, is the county seat.

A Forsyth County historical marker erected just last year — at the urging of a community remembrance project — recounts the 1912 lynching of Rob Edwards. The 24-year-old Black man was accused of raping and murdering a young White woman named Mae Crow.

In the same case, two Black teens, Ernest Knox and Oscar Daniel, were hanged after one-day trials. Bands of White “night riders” then launched a coordinated campaign of arson and terror to drive out all 1,098 Black citizens of Forsyth County, according to the 2016 book “Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America” by Patrick Phillips.

“If you read some of the history, you actually find out that it was people who were calling themselves Christians at times who were doing some of those things,” said Paul Huyghebaert, lead minister for the Grace Chapel church.

“We can’t undo that story. But what is the new story — the right story that we tell?” the White preacher added, as he and Teamer discussed the racial unity effort. “That is why this is so important.”

In 1987, a civil rights march drew thousands to Cumming and provoked a counterdemonstration by Ku Klux Klan members and their sympathizers. National Guard troops and law enforcement officers kept the opposing groups separated.

Related: At Tulsa massacre’s centennial, two Oklahoma churches focus on racial unity

Given Forsyth County’s history, Teamer said, “It’s mentally hard for a lot of folks to cross that county line.”

But he told his fellow Christians, “Through a continued investment in each other, I believe we can build bridges where no bridges existed.”

Read the full story.

This story appears in the online edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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