The Lynching of Mary Turner
Day 1 of #BlackHistoryMonth. We talk about the lynching of Mary Turner.
I had never heard the story of Mary Turner, until I saw a white public intellectual recall the story of Mary Turner and why it was one of the reasons why he supports reparations and condemned President Trump from characterizing his treatment by the Democrats as a lynching.
In May of 1918 a cruel, sadistic, bastard of a “man” named Hampton Smith was killed by a black man named Sidney Johnson. Hampton was the worst of the worst, he was incapable of treating his workers humanely, so he could never keep a worker. Instead, he benefited from the Black Codes (we will talk about this on a different day), which basically allowed black people to be arrested, jailed, convicted, and sentenced to prison for nothing. In the case of Sidney Johnson he was arrested and sent to jail for playing dice. In order for him to be released from confinement he had to pay a $30.00 fine. Hampton, paid the fine and forced Sidney to work for him until the fine was paid off. One day, Sidney was unable to work due to illness, that did not stop this psychopath from beating him within an inch of his life. When Sidney recovered from his grave injuries, he got a rifle and ridded this planet of this human garbage.
However, this act caused white people to form mobs that resulted in lynching 13 black people in the southern Georgia. People who never had met or known Hampton or Sidney. The most egregious lynching was that of Mary Turner and her baby.
Mary’s husband Hazel “Hayes” Turner was known to have been in conflict with Hampton, probably due to the fact that Hampton was a stain on humanity and no person could like such an ill-meaning beast. As a result of this known dislike for the deceased, Hayes was arrested and transported to a jail and then while he was in transit to another jail a mob of white people stopped the police in and took Hayes. They murdered him and left his body dangling from a tree over the weekend.
When Mary found out that her husband had been murdered, she swore vengeance and proclaimed his innocence. When the lynch mob heard this they tracked her down. When they found her, she was eight-months pregnant. They took her and hung her upside down by her ankles from a tree. They drenched her clothes in gasoline and then they set her ablaze. While she was burning someone in the crowd took a large knife, the type used to butcher hogs, and slit her belly open. The baby fell out of its Mary’s womb and crashed on the ground. It made two cries, before people in the mob stomped the baby to death.
Not one of those vermin, who murdered this woman, her baby, her husband or any of the other people was ever held to account for their actions. Yet, Mary Turner’s lynching has meaning. It was the catalyst for a conservative writer to read Coates’s Case for Reparations and agree that a debt was owed to blacks.
During this month we are going to learn about the Mary Turner’s of history, redlining, the Tulsa Massacre, Move, Terry Stops, environmental harms, etc. It is worth nothing, the memorial for Mary Turner is often riddled with bullets, just like Emit Till’s marker. If these black people cannot find peace in death, what chance do we have as a nation?
Garrick A. McFadden