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Never Forget: The Horrific Lynching of Mary Turner and her Baby

The chain of events that led to the lynching of Mary Turner started in May of 1918 on Hampton Smith’s plantation in Brooks County, Georgia. Smith, a 31-year-old White man, was shot and killed by one of his Black workers named Sydney Johnson.

After the slaves’ emancipation, many plantations in the South began to experience labor shortages. Like many other plantation owners, Hampton Smith turned to the debt peonage system of the day to find a ready labor pool. He took advantage of that system by bailing people out of jail and having them work off their debt (the bail money) to him on his plantation.

Smith was known for abusing and beating his workers, and 19-year-old Sydney Johnson was one such unfortunate victim of Smith’s violence.

After only a few days of work on Smith’s plantation, Johnson was refused his earned wages and beaten by Smith for not working while he was sick. As a result, Sydney Johnson shot and killed Hampton Smith.

The death of a White man at the hands of a Black man, sent the surrounding area into a frenzy. A mob was formed to search for Johnson and others, thought to be involved in his decision to kill Hampton Smith.

That manhunt lasted for more than a week and resulted in the deaths of at least 13 Black people. One of the unfortunate victims of this mob was Mary Turner, her husband, and her unborn child.

At the time, Mary Turner was twenty-years-old and 8-months pregnant. Mary’s husband, Hazel “Hayes” Turner, had been caught by the lynch mob and killed. She publicly objected to her husband’s murder. Upon hearing of her husband’s murder, Mary threatened to swear out warrants for those responsible. Those “unwise remarks,” as the area papers put it, enraged locals.

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Hearing news of the rampaging mob’s intent to punish her for her remarks, Mary Turner tried to flee for her life. She was caught and taken to a place called Folsom’s Bridge, on the Brooks and Lowndes Counties’ shared border.

To punish her, the mob tied Mary Turner by her ankles, hung her upside down from a tree, poured gasoline on her, and set her on fire. While still alive, one member of the mob then cut her stomach open and her unborn child spilled out onto the ground, where it was reportedly stomped on and crushed by a member of the mob. Finally her body was riddled with gunfire from the mob and left hanging.

Later that night, Mary and her baby were buried ten feet away from where they were murdered. The makeshift grave was marked with only a “whiskey bottle” and a “cigar” stuffed in its neck.

A few days after the murder of Mary Turner and her baby, three more bodies were found in the area. Sydney Johnson was killed in a shoot out with police on South Troup Street in Valdosta, Georgia. Once killed, it is reported that a crowd of more than 700 people watched as his genitals were cut off and thrown into the street. A rope was then tied to his neck and his body was drug for nearly 20 miles. What was left of his body was then burned by the mob.

More than 500 Black people fled the areas of Lowndes and Brooks Counties during and shortly after this chain of events.

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Mary Turner’s story and the stories of so many others like her, should never be forgotten. These types of acts, remain some of the most gruesome cases of racism and racial terrorism in this nation’s history. Yet they have been white-washed from main stream history books and teachings. Mary Turner’s murder remains one of the most horrific crimes committed against a human being in this nation’s history. The horrible conditions so many of our ancestors were forced to live through should never be forgotten or ignored. It is a part of our history – American history.

 

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  1. ONLY IN AMERIKKKA”

    COLD PEOPLE COLD WAYS, COLD WATER, MAKES ME WANNA HOLLA
    COLD PEOPLE, COLD WAYS, COLD WATER, MAKES ME WANNA HOLLA

    ONLY IN AMERIKKKA
    ONLY IN AMERIKKKA

    FROM THE LAND OF WHITE KNIGHTS AND JIM CROW
    AND RACIST COPS THAT KILL THEN LET GO
    THE BIRTHPLACE OF CAPITALISM AND SKID ROW
    THERE’S NO GOLD AT THE END OF THIS RAINBOW

    WITH CLASS DIVISIONS AND SOCIAL INEQUALITY
    SHOULD THEY THIS A DEMOCRACY?
    CHANGING THE RULES “THEY” MAKE TO UPHOLD
    SERVE “THEIR” OWN INTEREST AND HOLLOW GOALS

    WATCH WHAT YOU SAY THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK
    NEXT THING YOU KNOW YOU’VE BEEN HOOD-WINKED
    WHAT DO “THEY” MEAN WHEN “THEY” SAY HE’S UPPITY
    IT JUST SHOWS “THEIR” CULTURAL STUPIDITY

    IN DESPERATE NEED OF REDEMPTION AND ABOLITION
    WHEN WILL IT CEASE FROM RELATIONS OF EXPLOITATION
    OUR PEOPLE SUFFER FROM LACK AND OPPRESSION
    WHILE AMERIKKA CONTINUES IT’S WORLD DOMINATION

    PEOPLE OF COLOR COULD NOT HAVE KNOWN
    WHEN THEY SIGNED THEIR NAME TO THAT SUB-PRIME LOAN
    NOW THEY ARE VICTIMS OF PREDATORY LENDERS
    MORE OR LESS THE FIRST OFFENDERS

    WHERE YOU HAVE RACIAL AND ETHNIC DISPARITIES
    THERE YOU’LL FIND THE IRREGULARITIES
    STATISTICAL PROOF OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
    IT BEGAN IN THE DAYS OF THE SLAVE PLANTATION

    THEY CREATE INSTITUTIONS FOR HIGH INCARCERATIONS
    CLOSE OUR CHILDREN’S SCHOOLS EQUALING LOW GRADUATIONS
    WHILE WE SEEK OPPORTUNITY IN OUR COMMUNITY
    THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES WITH OUR LACK OF UNITY

    FEELINGS OF DEEP DESPAIR RUNNING THROUGH THE AIR
    HOMELESS DYING IN THE STREETS DOES ANYONE CARE?
    THE PLAGUE OF VIOLENCE IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS
    CANDLES BURN ON THE CORNER WHERE THAT CHILD ONCE STOOD

    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”
    DR. Martin Luther King JR.

    “The Thing worst than Rebellion is
    The Thing that cause Rebellion” – Frederick Douglass

  2. THIS KNOWLEDGE IS NEW TO ME AND SO DISTURBING BECAUSE THEY ARE STILL DO THIS TO AND WE ARE NOT NEIGHBORHOOD WATCHING OUR COMMUNITIES. PATROLING OUR OWN STREETS. WE DESPERATELY NEED TO POLICE YOURSELVES

  3. SOMEONE PLEASE MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT THIS! I attended an HBCU so I am well aware of What our People have faced BUT many people of color are NOT AWARE! they have not been taught! they have only been taught European History. I have talked to too many Youth who only now about MLK and Rosa Parks, and even that knowledge is warped, skewed and white washed. I would do it myself but its just not my talent..

    • Thomas i street Why don’t you go and join a pathetic racist group who gets to spew their crap and hatred on the world to try and make people see that their ‘right’ much like terrorist and stay away from civil sites that remeber wonderful people and the disgusting way they were took from us but then again your probably nothing but a sad little loser with no life and wouldn’t dare say any thing to a black person in real life cuz believe if you are around where I am the black people would be tying u up and feeding you your own shit and whatever genitals who may have well we know for certain u haven’t got balls

  4. Ok, My people we have heard all the gruesome stories. I challenge this blog to change the paradigm! Instead of constantly revisited the things in the past that we cannot change start by changing the things we can change. Use the past practices of the many Black wall streets that sprung up all over our country to educate and revive it. Research how they where able to not only survive but prosper as well, through some of the worst times in OUR country history. That right our country! We where here before the European and we should be letting our people know that. You have the forum lets see you use it! We are so concerned about making money that we don’t have a problem charging our own for information and services we should be giving for free. We are more concerned with making money than making communities. Knowledge Information and training is worth more than any amount of money you can make. Do the research! everyone in Tulsa worked together. It wasn’t just the so-called white people in the next town that was the cause of their destruction. We had a system that worked mainly because we all worked. This was in direct opposition theirs. Our real oppressor could not let that continue. The way our people prospered was the ones that had skills and knowledgeable , gave the ones that did have not the skills and knowledge until everybody had. We also forgot it when we left the so-called getto’s. Stop trying to gain so-called financial freedom their way. One last thing .Quiet as it’s keep we where prospering quite nicely before the european landed on our shores. We had cities all over the Americas. Pyramids that revival Egypt in many civilizations. Our downfall? my opinion. We thought that others believed as we did. If I can survive it should not cost anything to show others how to. I’m just saying Peace.

    • Have you read any of the other articles on this site? There are a lot of articles about positive Black movements, businesses, history etc. It is important to make people aware of our history – good and bad. Many people dont even know these types of things happened.

  5. I’m so ancestor,BLACK history intrigued.I have a “Story ” of my own to tell.I’m going through some things that probably got “uglier” for me after “volunteering” for and being the 1st.to volunteer for the election of President Barack Obama…I live in a place that’s “always”been fascist but like the K.K.K. it’s undercover…until you’re “caught up ” !!! I call myself a civil/political activist -because my “entire life ” has been a “cover up ” and I feel “nobody” gives a damn when something is wrong for “Blacks ” and people of color…so I “speak up ” I KNOW ALSO “1st.HAND ” what it’s like to be a “SECRET” when the people who run things want to “BURY THE TRUTH ” …No matter how time changes “OLD HABITS ” remain the same.Because of my choice to “STEP UP…GET INVOLVED AND MAKE A CHANGE ” my involvement with the “election nearly “COST ME MY LIFE ” inspire of my fears I worked tirelessly to get “OUR PRESIDENT” elected …not realizing until he took office how truly “HATEFUL and RACIST ” OUR country really is.I’m a 59 year old “SECRET” in the state of PENNSYLVANIA…who’s “STOLE MY ENTIRE LIFE ” yet the fact remains…I’M STILL HERE AND I’M NOT GIVING UP …this makes me “very passionate…”ABOUT OUR STRUGGLES “!!!

  6. Thank you for publishing our history, and by that I mean the history of ALL people who aren’t haters. This reminds me of how the Philadelphia police grabbed an infant from the arms of a women member of the MOVE organization, threw her to the ground and stopped her to death. We can avenge this baby by freeing the MOVE 9. Learn more about the MOVE organization at their upcoming conference May 5 – 7, 2017 at http://onamove.com. This will be live-streamed as well (if you can’t get to Philly).

    • Separate where? WE built this country – they didn’t pay us for it. Practically ALL of these inventions of modern convenience WE invented…because we were doing ALL THE WORK. Africa is infested with covert colonialists STILL causing problems in and on the continent. You want to separate THERE? You NEED to insist on our 40 acres and mule that was never made good on. After the slaves were freed reparations were paid alright – TO THE SLAVE OWNERS. Nothing to their ex-slaves. We don’t even have to go back to 1619 to 1865. We can start with 1940 until the PRESENT…Jim Crow/unfair hiring practices/seeing to it our schools don’t educate/subprime lending/overcharging us for EVERYTHING- insurance, car payments, home payments…ad infinitum. YOU figure it our. What’s owed us – a WHOLE DAMN LOT…

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