black women

University remembers the lynching of a pregnant woman 100 years ago

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maryApril V. Taylor

WGCL-TV Atlanta is reporting on the May 19, 1918 lynching of Mary Turner, a 21-year-old pregnant woman who was murdered for speaking out about the lynching of her husband Hayes Turner. Hayes Turner had been killed during a week-long mob-driven manhunt for the killer of plantation owner Hampton Smith, who had been shot. Mary Turner spoke out denying that her husband had any involvement in Smith’s killing and denounced his murder, threatening to have members of the mob who had killed him arrested. The mob then turned against her and decided to focus their wrath on her.

When the mob captured Turner, they took her to Folsom Bridge over Little River, tied her ankles, and hung her upside down from a tree. As her great granddaughter Audrey Grant reports, “She took action. And because she took action she was hung, tarred, and burned as well as her unborn baby.” Historical newspaper accounts report that her child was cut from her womb while she was still alive, and upon crying, the baby was stomped and crushed. After Turner’s body was riddled with bullets, she was cut down and buried near the tree she had hung from.

Regarding learning the details of the killing, Grant states, “I had a few moments there myself…deep emotions. It just almost seems like it is something that just happened. Once all the information is presented, and all of us as family, and friends get together and start talking about it, we get very emotional.” She goes on to state, “I am very fortunate to even know and have this information in hand. We don’t want our children to not know what happened. Just because we come from a family that were slaves, it doesn’t mean we are less and as a matter of fact it uplifts me. It doesn’t matter what color we are. History is history. It really brings everybody together, to know where we came from, and what happened in those times.”

Valdosta State University Professor Dr. Mark George has started the Mary Turner Project as a way to digitize slave records and create a searchable database of ancestral names. George states, “This project was started because we have repeatedly heard that people lack the access or resources to see if their ancestors owned enslaved people or were enslaved. The project was also started to create a database of the more than 2,600 documented lynchings in the United States. The database will allow people to search lynching victims by name, year, location, race, gender, mob type and alleged crime. Regarding the database, George states, “History is important, everybody’s history is important. I think uncovering the truth helps us understand our past and the racial divide we live in every day.”