On Friday thousands across the U.S. took time out of their day to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was remembered in many different ways: with peace marches, moments of silence and renewed calls for an investigation into the still unsolved Moore's Ford lynching.
As they have done for many years past, civil rights activists gathered at the First African Church in Monroe on Friday morning to rally and march on the Moore's Ford Bridge where black sharecroppers Roger and Dorothy Malcolm and George and Mae Murray Dorsey were murdered by a white mob on July 25, 1946 in the last mass lynching in America.
"Whatever our conditions are, God knows it couldn't be worse than what happened on that bridge," said Edward Dubose, president of the Georgia State Conference NAACP. "We have to stand up now. It's not about revenge, it's about justice."
Attendees of the rally and march came from all over and included high school students from Macon, college students from Florida and older civil rights activists from Atlanta and beyond. Despite the grimness of the occasion, a spirit of hope and of new possibilities, fueled by a deeply moving performance by Macon's Southwest Philharmonic Society and the specter of Barack Obama's presidential campaign, seemed to fall over audience members during Friday's rally.
Though their murderers all likely lived in Walton and Oconee Counties, no individual was ever charged in the deaths of the Malcolms and Dorseys. Of the approximately 20 men suspected to have taken part in the lynching, two are believed to still be alive today, though they would be old men.
"It's going to take all of us: black, white, blue, to make things right," said Social Circle resident and civil rights activist Bobby Howard, who has worked tirelessly for more than 40 years to bring attention to the Moore's Ford murders.
Joining Howard Friday were State Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) and Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia) who has sponsored a bill to set up and provide funding for a full-time FBI task force for the investigation of unsolved civil rights crimes.
The Emmett Till Bill would provide $3.5 million each year from 2008-2017 to state and local law enforcement agencies for expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of civil rights cases that resulted in a death and occurred before 1970. The bill would also provide $10 million each year until 2017 to the U.S. Attorney General's Office for the investigation of cold civil rights cases.
While the Emmett Till Bill was overwhelmingly passed out of the House of Representatives last June, its progress has lagged since it was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. According to Rich Rusk, secretary of the Moore's Ford Memorial Committee, the bill's (S.535) progress has been impeded by Sen. Thomas Coburn (R-Okla.)
"The Till Bill has got to get out of the Senate," said Andy Sheldon, a civil rights activist, speaking to the audience.
Attendees were urged to send postcards to Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), calling on them to support the bill when it comes before the Senate floor for a vote.
"The arch of the universe is broad but it's bent toward justice," said Joe Beasley, southern regional director for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. "We believe that even now it is not too late for justice to be done in Walton County."
A re-enactment of the events leading up to the Moore's Ford lynching will be held on the 62nd anniversary of the Malcolms' and Dorseys' deaths on July 25 in Monroe. For more information visit www.mooresford.org.