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Activists look to keep history alive through reenactment of Moore's Ford lynching

It's a story that's difficult to watch, but one that's important to tell.

The year is 2018, but on Saturday an audience will be transported to a time more than 70 years ago - back to a much darker period in America's past.

That's because on July 27, actors will perform for an audience, a reenactment of a lynching.

Seventy-two years ago this week, on July 25, two black couples were lynched In Monroe, Georgia by the Ku Klux Klan. The Georgia town is about 50 miles east of Atlanta.

Known as the Moore’s Ford Bridge lynching, it remains one of America’s unsolved murders.

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The year was 1946.

Several black plaintiffs filed lawsuits with the federal court against Georgia holding a whites-only primary. The Fifth District Court of Appeals upheld the 1945 ruling that declared the whites-only primary unconstitutional, deeming the primary a key part of the election process that could not exclude blacks.

But that same year, Roger Malcom suspected a white man, Barnett Hester, of getting his wife Dorothy pregnant. Malcom is accused of stabbing Hester during a fight.

A white landowner, Loy Harrison, bailed Malcom out of jail, and drove him with his wife and cousins, George and Mae Murray Dorsey. But, a lynch mob surrounded their car - and all four were shot, lynched and Dorothy’s baby - cut out.

An FBI report obtained by NBC News shows Harrison may have set up and ordered the murders. All this to avenge a white man and send a message to black people: This is what would happen if they tried to vote.

11Alive's Hope Ford went to the dress rehearsal for the reenactment, where she met Joedrell Sister Benjamin.

The actress is playing the part of Dorothy Malcom. She's hoping to bring audiences back to that troubling time.

“I want the audience to feel what she was going through," Benjamin explained. "I want them to be back in that time.”

For the past 13 years, civil rights activists have reenacted the lynching, with 10 of those under the direction of Cassandra Green. Actors have poured their souls into parts, both difficult to watch. And difficult to play.

But it's necessary, according to the actors.

“I know it’s hard on you guys, cause when you have to stand up there and say n***** and a lot of these things, it’s not easy, and that’s why it’s so hard to get people to do it,” Green explained to the actors.

“It’s very emotional, cause I’m going to be having the Klans people yelling at me,” described Sophia Johnson, playing the part of a black voter.

While Benjamin explained that she has to remind herself that she's only telling the story, for Bob Caine, who plays a Klansman, said he has to go home and try to quiet his soul.

“It takes a lot out of me," he said.

After this dress rehearsal, on Saturday, the troupe of about 20 actors will head back to the spot of the original murders to perform it live in front of an audience to remember the past, and to stir the pot of justice - brewing for over seven decades.

“It hasn’t been solved yet. And it needs to be,” Johnson emphasized.

“No justice has been done for these four people and an unborn baby," another actor explained. "A child, that didn’t even have the chance to be born yet.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation closed the Moore’s Ford lynching case in January of 2018, ending official efforts to solve this case. But that won’t stop the reenactments, or the feeling that if the country tries to forget, it's doomed to repeat.

“I grew up in the south in those days, and I saw what it was like," Caine reminded. "I don’t want to move back to it.”

The commemoration starts at 10 a.m. on July 28 at the 1st African Baptist Church off Tyler Street in Monroe. The reenactment will follow at the Moore’s Ford Bridge at Mt. Caramel Church Road and Moore's Ford Road at 4 p.m.

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