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Dark parts of Georgia history basis for Newton resident's TV series
"Oscarville: Below the Surface" uses area's factual past, local legends to infuse fictional storyline
Oscarville scene
Coop (Stevie Baggs), right, and old college buddy George (Drew Giles) reunite at George’s childhood home in a scene from “Oscarville: Below the Surface.” (Special Photo | Bob Mackey)

COVINGTON, Ga. — Bob Mackey wants to make sure the world knows or does not forget a dark part of Georgia history now mostly covered by the waters of Lake Lanier.

Mackey is using the facts surrounding the destruction of the Forsyth County town of Oscarville as the basis for a TV series he helped create titled, "Oscarville: Below the Surface."

The Newton County resident said he has had interest from some streaming services — which he did not name — for the series which uses a 1912 racial incident in Forsyth County and the numerous drownings in recent years in Lake Lanier as starting points for the series' fictional storyline.   

He said he plans to place the first two episodes on YouTube in February and make some announcements about its availability elsewhere at that time.

Mackey, who is executive producer, said the show has been filming in such areas as Porterdale since January, around the schedules of its stars. 

It will have elements of horror but also seeks to bring the tragedy of Oscarville to light, Mackey said.

"It has a lot of supernatural elements," Mackey said. "It's not gruesome horror."

He said he wanted the series to give viewers a glimpse into one of the dark parts of segregation-era Georgia — a white mob's destruction of a once-prosperous majority Black town in 1912 — as well as weaving in a growing urban legend about the lake's allegedly deadly nature.

"Oscarville is history," Mackey said. "We can't hide it."

Mackey said he was able to create the series because of six "angel investors from across Georgia who were inspired by the story of Oscarville and my vision of bringing the story to life."

"They provided either financial or in-kind support," he said.

Stevie Baggs, who also is in the Tyler Perry series "Ruthless" on BET+ and the Netflix series "Cobra Kai," portrays main character "Coop" Cooper. 

Kenisha Johnson, who appeared in the 2020 movie "Inheritance" and the TV series "Murder Decoded," portrays Coop's estranged wife.

Drew Giles and Kay Nicole also play major roles.  

Two Newton County residents, Misty Ellington and Bill Watts, also are in the cast.

Ellington portrays Agent Howard, a police detective "who continues to make rookie mistakes." Watts plays Sheriff Ted Wilcott, according to online descriptions of the cast.

"A veteran law enforcement officer during the demise of Oscarville and the now sheriff, (Sheriff Wilcott) seeks to keep peace in the town.

"As deaths rise on Lake Lanier, Sheriff Wilcott comes under fire for keeping the death count low and for concealing evidence that led to the riots of Oscarville. His career is threatened and no one is safe."

Its fact-based script incorporates the numerous drowning deaths in the heavily-used lake — six have been recorded this year alone — as well as legends like the "Lady of the Lake" and ghosts upset about Lanier's waters covering gravesites.

The "Lady" legend is based in fact after two women were killed and their bodies not found for years after the vehicle in which they were traveling skidded off the side of a bridge and into Lanier's waters in 1958. The vehicle was not found until 1990. 

Meanwhile, the real-life town of Oscarville formerly existed on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in Forsyth County before Lake Lanier was created in the mid-1950s. 

Mackey said he used first-person accounts of what happened in the Oscarville area, in addition to historical facts, for the non-fiction part of the script.

The 1912 series of incidents happened at a time when racial tensions were high in northeast Georgia following some shootings between Black and white area residents. 

At the time, white residents were often able to take advantage of Black residents who were not treated equally in the judicial system and some white political figures who used the tensions to gain support.

The incident was chronicled in the 2016 book, "Blood At The Root," by Gainesville native and Stanford University English professor Patrick Phillips. 

The book uses newspaper and eyewitness accounts to report on an alleged rape of two white women and fatal beating of one in 1912 near the town on the banks of the Chattahoochee River.

The incidents led white mobs to use arson and shootings to force 1,100 Black residents to flee their homes in the Forsyth County town over a two-month period in 1912. Afterward, most residents left and Black property deeds found their way into the hands of white neighbors without any bill of sale or transfer, according to a report on NewsOne.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created Lake Lanier in 1956 as a source of electric power and drinking water for the then-rapidly-growing Atlanta region by building a dam at a point on the Chattahoochee River between Cumming and Buford. It created a reservoir covering 59 square miles of land, including cemeteries, a motor sports track and most of the land in the former town of Oscarville.

Forsyth County remained all-white for decades and prompted civil rights leader Hosea Williams to lead a 1987 march on the observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday that included about 75 people. Some onlookers pelted the marchers with rocks and bottles.

Williams later led a march with 25,000 people that was protected by more than 2,000 National Guardsmen and police. Among Williams' demands to Forsyth County was return of some Oscarville land taken from Black landowners in 1912.

Oprah Winfrey then hosted her nationally televised talk show the following month in Forsyth County. 

"It has so many points of history," Mackey said.

For more information about the show, visit

Oscarville promo
An online promo for “Oscarville: Below the Surface” is shown. (Special | Bob Mackey)