FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga - It's part of Forsyth County's dark history that some will never forget. in 1912, all black people were forced out of the county. Many would say the county is still haunted by its past, but there are those with hope for a better future.
Daniel Blackman moved to Forsyth County in 2012. He was drawn to the county for its cost of living, schools, and proximity to the lake and mountains. But he's one of the few African Americans who choose to live in a county that for more than a decade has been known as an "all-white county".
"To be honest you don't see as much black faces as you see in Atlanta," said Blackman.
Blackman was the first African American in the history of the county to run for an elected position. That was just 4 years ago.
"There was concern from family members, 'I'm not sure if we're okay with you running for office' because the reality is the stigma has never really left the county," said Blackman.
A stigma that dates back to 1912 and the death of 18-year-old Mae Crow. She was walking along a quiet street in the community of Oscarville near the shore of Lake Lanier when she was brutally raped and beaten. Several black men were accused of the crime. Tensions were already high and a mob of white men pulled one of the suspects from the county jail and killed him.
"They dragged him around the square and hanged his body on the square, that was a classic lynching," said George Pirkle, a historian with the Historical Society of Cumming/Forsyth County.
Two others were hanged about a half-mile from the courthouse. Soon came the threats, and within months every black man, woman, and child was forced out of the county.
"They were told if you don't get out of this county we're going to burn down your house and kill everybody in it," said Pirkle.
In 1987, civil rights activists held a brotherhood march for peace. Many took buses from Atlanta to Forsyth County.
"When they got off the bus they started to be pelted by rocks and bottles and there were people standing on the banks of the road with confederate flags saying go home n-word you're not welcome in Forsyth County," said Pirkle.
Two weeks later, a second, more peaceful march, but little changed. Today, that part of the county's history is still felt by some.
"There's still a stigma among some black people coming to Forsyth County, we've talked to people who say there's no way I'd set foot in there," said Pirkle.
Today the historical society is trying to track down the descendants of those who were forced out of their homes and the county in 1912. They're also trying to pinpoint the land they once owned.
"We want to map all the churches, all the schools and we want to do everything we can to restore and protect all the black cemeteries in Forsyth County," said Pirkle.
Daniel Blackman is part of several organizations that are looking toward the future and change.
"People are starting to create these auxiliary groups, they're starting to say we need to tackle the race issue. Not because of pressure, but because of interest and personal desire to create a community we can be proud of," said Blackman.
While the minority population in Forsyth County is growing, that demographic is mostly made up of Hispanics and Asians. The black population hovers around 4 percent.