Will Forsyth County Elect An African American Man?

Ku Klux Klan Protest Rally against Hosea Williams civil right march in Forsyth County GA in 1992
Ku Klux Klan Protest Rally against Hosea Williams civil right march in Forsyth County GA in 1992

The short answer: No.

Forsyth County is infamous for its bloody expulsion of its black residents in 1912. If you are interested in this notorious page of Forsyth County’s history, you can purchase Patrick Phillips new book, Blood At The Roots, on Amazon. It’s a disturbing and interesting read.

As the legend goes, Forsyth County had a growing black community until the death of Mae Crow. A newspaper described a group of young, black men as monsters who raped and killed Crow. The white population responded by using shotguns and torches to expel all 1,098 black residents. In fact, the mayor of Cumming wrote to the governor that the white mobs had burned five black churches to the ground.

By the end of 1912, Forsyth County was a white-only county.

Fast-forward to 2016. The election for Senate District 27 is in less than five days. For all intents and purposes, this is a somewhat historic election. Daniel Blackman, the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat, is the first African American to run for office in Forsyth County. He is part of a wave of newcomers that are helping to breathe new life into a county known for its sketchy past. The population currently sits at 10 percent Latino, 8 percent Asian, and 3 percent black–a huge change from the old 98 percent white population of the 1980s when racial tension again reared its head in the form of protests, violence, and marches.

Protesters in Forsyth County, GA
Protesters in Forsyth County, GA

The juxtaposition between Blackman and the incumbent, Michael Williams, could not be more stark. Blackman is running on a moderate to left-leaning platform while Senator Williams, the first elected official in Georgia to endorse Donald Trump, is running on a conservative platform. Senator Williams has defended Trump at his worst and praised him at his best. In fact, the Trump campaign deployed Senator Williams to Utah last week in an effort to shore up support among Mormons.

Even though the demographics are changing, Forsyth County is still a deep red county. Mitt Romney won 80 percent of the vote in 2012 and John McCain won 78 percent of the vote in 2008. Daniel Blackman’s chance of winning is slim to none. For Senator Williams, a poor showing would be less than 80 percent.

The election between Blackman and Williams is not black vs white, nor is it old school vs new school. Williams is also a newcomer (and an Alabama fan, which the county manages to look past) who has created strong roots within the area.  His popularity cleared the way for an uncontested primary. Senator Williams will win reelection because he’s popular and his beliefs align with the voters of Forsyth County. Though an argument could (and I’m sure will) be made that the underlying racial issues resulted in Republican dominance.

So, to answer the question, no, Forsyth County will not elect an African American this cycle. Blackman will lose next Tuesday, but he is also the face of a new Forsyth County.


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