Four days before Christmas in 2020, two Black families in Douglasville, Georgia discovered handwritten letters in their mailboxes that, according to the local police, “threatened to burn their houses down and kill them.” The notes made it clear to the Black families that “they didn’t belong in the neighborhood.”
Days passed, then weeks, yet no homes were burned down. No Black residents were harmed. But then in February, three days after Valentine’s Day, Black families received a new batch of hate mail warning them of murderous violence and arson. The same thing occurred five days after that. And a week after that. And two days after that.
In March, a Black father who’d found racist hate mail at his home, told the local CBS affiliate, “I received one two days ago, and I was alarmed. The letter is using the n-word, talking about the KKK, hanging people, killing kids, killing whole families, setting houses on fire.”
The summer, however, passed without a single new hate-filled letter being sent. “By mid-March, we really didn’t have anything to go on,” admitted Detective Nathan Shumaker told the FOX affiliate. There was, in fact, just a single clue to work with — the letters were purportedly written by a white man with a red beard who was a self-described member of the Ku Klux Klan.
There was no reason not to believe that would be the case. After all, there’s a deep local and regional history of vile acts of racism. Most recently, on June 17, 2015 in neighboring South Carolina, Dylann Roof ambled into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and sat down with the worshipful who were gathered for a prayer meeting. He prayed with them, right up until he pulled out his Glock 45 and fired 70 rounds. He killed nine Black people in total. It was meant as a warning to others.
A month later, back in Douglasville, a mob of 15 people loaded up into lifted trucks and drove through the small town proudly waving the Confederate flag. The bigots called their protest “Respect the Flag.” When that same group spotted a Black birthday party and cookout for an 8-year-old child, the sight of Black joy seemingly enraged them. They drove their trucks onto the yard, swerving past the rented bouncy castle. When they came to a stop, 10 men and five women climbed out of the trucks and shouted racist epithets. For good measure, one man leveled his pump-action shotgun at the party attendees. “They even threatened to kill children at the party,” the district attorney later recalled.
After two of the people involved were tried, convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, the local chapter of the KKK announced its intention to hold a rally in Douglasville. A local “Imperial Wizard,” Stephen Howard, promised that 200 Klansmen would show up, armed and “robed-up.” He described the lengthy prison sentences for committing a hate crime against Black families as both “shameful” and “not right.”
And so, three years later, when the deluge of racist letters first began arriving in the mailbox of Black families living in Douglasville, local residents, both Black and white, assumed it was more hate from the usual suspects. To figure out which one exactly, Douglasville detectives reportedly went “door-to-door, checking doorbell cameras, asking residents if they saw anything, handed out flyers and got to know the residents.”
Their big break came in September. On Labor Day, a Black family received a new letter, which they turned over to police, who compared it to earlier racist hate mail received by Black families. That’s when a detective spotted a few patterns in the handwriting that were consistent with the previous letters, allowing police to obtain a search warrant for a neighbor in the subdivision. The search confirmed that the police finally had their man.
Except, it wasn’t a man. It wasn’t a white person either. And it certainly wasn’t a Klansmen.
The racist letter writer was a 30-year-old Black woman named Terresha Lucas, who is now facing eight counts of making terroristic threats. “A motive behind the notes was not immediately released,” the local press reported.
Maybe it was her warped response to post-traumatic stress caused by the town’s earlier racist attacks. Maybe she wanted to be the only Black person in the subdivision. Maybe she didn’t feel like any Black people were safe there.
Whatever it is, she’ll most likely always be the Black Klanswoman of Douglasville, Georgia.