Thoughts from Partner Arman Deganian as we observe Juneteenth:
Juneteenth is an established holiday to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. It’s a holiday that is incredibly important in the lives of Americans, but only recently, has much of America became aware of the holiday’s history.
The decision to recognize Juneteenth is, I imagine, a personal decision for every employer. It’s personal for me, although, not because of my life experiences. I’ve never – and I imagine never will – experienced the kind of hatred and prejudice that led to the Tulsa massacre in 1921. However, the county where I grew up here in Georgia has its own stain on history, which, although smaller than the Tulsa massacre, is just as tragic.
Fire in a Canebrake tells the story of the last mass lynching in the United States – the Moore’s Ford Lynching. It occurred in 1946 in Walton County, Georgia, about 60 miles east of Atlanta. It is a dark and painful story; one that I believe is not representative of Walton County today. However, it did happen, and it remains unsolved to this day. Due to the color of their skin, four human beings were arrested and subsequently lynched by a mob on the banks of the Apalachee River. George Dorsey, a World War II veteran, and his wife Mae Dorsey, along with Roger Malcolm and his wife Dorothy Malcom, were tied to trees and shot over 60 times by a mob of 20 men. President Harry Truman personally called for a federal investigation into the murders, but, despite the efforts of the FBI, no arrests were ever made. Nobody talked. Folks circled the wagons.
The investigation was re-opened in 2001 and, by 2006, the FBI and the GBI coordinated a renewed investigation of the murders. Nevertheless, the investigation was officially closed in 2018. To this day, no arrests have ever been made.
This isn’t ancient history. The Dorseys and Malcoms still have relatives that grieve for them. We should all grieve for them and the injustices that allowed the Moore’s Ford lynching and the Tulsa massacre to occur, among other events. Acknowledging and honoring the victims is one thing that we can do today, even though we never brought them and their families justice. We cannot change history, but we can certainly acknowledge that it happened. Maybe, in the annual celebration of Juneteenth, we can prevent their names from being forgotten, which would be the worse tragedy in the end. Don’t forget their names. George Dorsey. Mae Dorsey. Roger Malcom. Dorothy Malcom.
As our country slowly marches toward equality, it’s important to celebrate the historic wins of fighting for injustice, growth and freedom. These are the things that will inevitably drive our nation forward.