The Toughest Historical Reenactment in America

For The Appendix’s second issue, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jackie Sibblies Drury, a writer and friend, about her play, We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. The self-consciously long title, like the play’s wicked sense of humor, masks an incredibly sharp critique of the racial history Americans carry with them, even when they’re trying to reenact the history of ‘other’ countries. We talked specifically about the play’s ending, in which six black and white actors’ attempt to put on their own play about the Herero genocide ends in horrific failure. Seriously, it kills. (And is now playing in LA, through the end of the week. Go see it.)

Without giving too much of that ending away, I was reminded of Jackie’s play when a friend, Thomas Frampton, forwarded me this post from the blog Northwest History, about an incredible historical reenactment that’s been going on for nine years in Monroe, GA.

It’s called the Moore’s Ford Bridge Lynching Reenactment.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Colonial Williamsburg this is not.

In 1946, a white KKK-led mob pulled two black Georgian couples from the car of their white employer. One of the black men, Roger Malcolm, had stabbed a white man in the stomach eleven days before. The mob tied the men, and their wives, to a tree and filled them with sixty bullets. Malcolm’s wife Dorothy was pregnant.

The FBI came up with a set of suspects—Georgia’s governor claimed that 15 to 20 mob members were known by name—but the grand jury but failed to convict any of them. Today, the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials brings together a group of white and black Georgians who take on the role of the black couples, the white employer, and the mob that lynched them, to reenact the event in Monroe and at Moore’s Ford Bridge. They hold the event to bring attention to the unsolved murders, and to maintain awareness of the crime. (Pictures from the era were re-discovered three years ago.)

Videos of the event, from this year and years past, are below, and not for the faint of heart. I find them phenomenally brave, though, and think they should be an inspiration to other activists and historians. In an age where zombie flash-mobs and ‘Thriller’ parades are de rigueur, what other more horrific real-life events could be reenacted, to challenge our communities and awaken sympathy?

And for this year’s reenactment (from which the screencap at top is taken) click through to here and here.