When Marjorie Taylor Greene, the new congresswoman known for her racist and anti-Semitic rants, was a senior at South Forsyth County High School in 1992, a few dozen Black marchers made their way through the Georgia county’s rain-slicked streets singing old protest songs and carrying signs reading “We Shall Overcome” and “Black and White Together.” The route was flanked by hundreds of snarling white racists waving Confederate flags and shouting ″Go home, n—ers.”
The marchers had been marking five years since the 1987 “Walk for Brotherhood” drew international condemnation to all-white Forsyth County. Newspaper accounts describe protesters being pelted with so many “rocks, bottles and mud thrown from a crowd of Ku Klux Klan members and their supporters” that they were forced to abandon the two-and-half mile route. Forsyth County had maintained an unwritten whites-only policy dating to 1912, when white vigilantes lynched a black man and drove out nearly all of the African American residents. The county’s reputation as too dangerous for Black folks to even drive through—a courthouse lawn sign in the 1950s and ‘60s warned “N—er, Don’t Let the Sun Set on You” — was well earned. ”I have been in the civil rights movement for 30 years,” Hosea Williams, an acolyte of Martin Luther King Jr and organizer of the Forsyth County march, told the New York Times in 1987. “I’m telling you we’ve got a South Africa in the backyard of Atlanta, Georgia.”
After the 1987 protest, many of Forsyth County’s white residents lashed out at the media for supposedly shaming them, including one local who told the Atlanta Constitution that “we should have busted every camera down there and kicked every reporter’s ass.” Thirty-three years later, before the Jan. 4 vote when a handful of Republicans joined Democrats to strip Greene of House committee seats, she gave a speech blaming her most outrageous comments on “cancel culture,” “Facebook posts” and “big media,” which she described as wanting to “crucify me in the public square for words that I said.” But while the internet and the media made me do it may be a convenient, if stupefying, excuse, it seems more likely that Greene’s existing views, perhaps developed during her time in Forsyth County, found affirmation in Trumpist corners online.