Roper went on to run the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the state’s chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. He was never charged for his role in Finch’s death.
Joyce Finch-Morris, Thomas Finch’s niece, still lives in Atlanta. Her uncle’s death was one of about 600 lynchings in the state. It’s not clear how many of those were directly related to the Klan, but there are any number of stories where there are links between the organization and the extrajudicial deaths of Black men in Georgia.
The last known mass lynching in U.S. history occurred in Georgia. The Post revisited that incident in 2019.
“Loy Harrison, a wealthy white landowner, was driving the couples home from the Walton County Jail. Earlier that day, Dorothy Dorsey Malcom had convinced Harrison, her boss, to post bail for Roger Malcom, who had been in jail for 11 days for allegedly stabbing a white man during a dispute,” The Post’s Kim Bellware reported. “ … Harrison was identified in a later FBI report as a former Klansman; civil rights activists at the time alleged he bailed Malcom out to hand him over to the mob.”
That was in 1946, well within the lifetimes of many Americans, including President Biden. This is not recent history, but it is not ancient history, either.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) represents a district in northwest Georgia. She has gained national attention both for her embrace of conspiracy theories and her hyperbolic rhetoric. In recent weeks, like others seeking airtime in conservative media, she has tried to shift the discussion on race that has accompanied the trial of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin away from Chauvin’s conviction for killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck and on to the purported danger of Black activists. On the night of the Chauvin verdict, she claimed that the Black Lives Matter movement was “the strongest terrorist threat in our county,” a claim, she said, that was proved by Washington, D.C., having been “completely dead” out of fear over the reaction to the verdict. (The city was very much alive.)
In an interview with conservative commentator David Harris published on Wednesday, Greene went further.
Harris and Greene were in agreement: The Chauvin jury was tainted by the same purported fear that Greene falsely claimed had gripped the nation’s capital.
“I personally believe, and this is what I tweeted,” Greene said, “that there was no way that we could see anything but a guilty verdict. … This is mob rule. This is not law. This is not court. This is not justice, so to speak. And I’m not even talking about the verdict. I’m just talking about the fact that BLM has become the most powerful domestic terrorist organization within inside the United States.”
“With all the riots and Black Lives Matter and all the all the chaos that went on around the country,” he said, “it absolutely had to sway the jury and put the jury in a position where, like you said, these people didn’t sign up for this. They were selected. So how in the world could any jury member feel like they could do anything other than vote guilty out of just fear for their family and their lives?”
“That’s right,” Greene replied. “It was you know, it’s basically the same tactics that the Ku Klux Klan used to use.”
“They used to go and take to the streets with torches and their uniforms and go out there like some sort of army,” she continued. “They would threaten courts. They would threaten people in their towns if they didn’t behave the way they wanted them to behave. And remember the Ku Klux Klan — the Democrat Party is the party of the Ku Klux Klan.”
“Yup,” Harris interjected.
“The Democrat Party is the party of Jim Crow,” Greene said. “And now we see the Democrat Party is now the party of Black Lives Matters. Which, they don’t care about Black lives, not at all. They care about policies. They care about radical changes within our government.”
This line about the Klan being the party of Democrats is a common one on the right, centered on the accurate link between White Southern politics and Klan activism 100 years ago. But that relationship between race and party was upended by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 signed into law by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, and segregationist Democrats moved away from the party. The South went from solid blue to solid red.
It also should go without saying, of course, that a mass movement of hundreds of thousands of people protesting to draw attention to questions about systemic racism and the killings of Black people at the hands of law enforcement is not equivalent to Klan rallies. While violence or vandalism did spiral out of a small percentage of BLM marches last year, the pressure that activists hoped to bring was the constitutionally protected pressure from vocal assemblies. The Klan hid their identities and used acts of terror, including murder, to seize political power. Those were their “tactics.” They often worked with or through Southern law enforcement agencies in an explicit effort to protect power for White Americans.
Earlier this week, Greene was the subject of outcry after she endorsed a new, populist “America First” caucus in the House, a group of legislators who would defend the United States as a place with “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”
On Dec. 9, 1900, residents of a small Georgia town woke to find the bullet-riddled body of a Black man named Bud Rufus lying on the railroad tracks. On his chest was a note reading, “This is a warning to both black and white not to meddle, or you will suffer the same fate. WE ARE THE PEOPLE.”
That death wasn’t linked to the Klan, but it mirrored the tactics that organization would embrace to maintain cultural and political control. Rufus was killed in Greene’s eventual district, one of the four lynchings recorded in Floyd County.