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Activists march to seek justice in 1946 Georgia lynchings

Associated Press
Published April 3, 2005

ATLANTA - Activists marched Saturday near the site where four black sharecroppers were killed in 1946, hoping publicity about the lynchings would cause someone to step forward with information so the deaths could join the list of civil rights-era cases being prosecuted.

A white mob pulled two men and two women from a car near the Moore's Ford bridge about 40 miles east of Atlanta, dragged them down a wagon trail and shot them. No one was convicted.

Organizers said they hoped Saturday's march, which drew about 100 people, would raise awareness about the murders so the case would have a better chance of proceeding to trial.

"The biggest problem with the cases is the evidence is gone, and most of the witnesses are dead," said Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. "Nobody back then would come forward and say anything against the white power structure."

But the political climate in the South has shifted and convictions on civil rights cases are now possible, said Dees, who represented the widow of murdered civil rights activist Medgar Evers during the trial of former Klan leader Sam Bowers.

The Moore's Ford Memorial Committee is petitioning prosecutor Ken Wynne to seek indictments in the case. A 2001 mandate by then-Gov. Roy Barnes to reopen the case has yielded no new information, Wynne said.

"If there is anyone with knowledge of what happened or who did it, we would welcome them coming forward," he said.

Convictions in civil rights-era murder cases began as early as the 1970s. In 1977, ex-Klansman Robert Chambliss was convicted in the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., church in which four black girls were killed.

But it was the 1994 conviction of Byron de la Beckwith in the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers that encouraged justice seekers, said lawyer Andy Sheldon, who was involved with the Evers case and several others.

"You could feel the dam break with Beckwith," Sheldon said.

[Last modified April 3, 2005, 00:11:06]

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