In 1918, Mary Turner’s Brutal Murder Changed the Politics of Lynching in America In 1918, Mary Turner’s Brutal Murder Changed the Politics of Lynching in America
STORY

How My Southern Georgia Community Came Together Around the Memory of a Century-Old Mass Murder

Through the Mary Turner Project, Blacks and Whites Confronted and Consecrated Our Violent Past

The Little River snakes its slow-flowing black water along the boundary between Georgia’s Brooks and Lowndes Counties.

It is a place that has been dear to my family for generations. This was the river where my grandmother, the wife of a “white trash” sharecropper, fished for most of …

STORY

The Play I Had to Write About the Murder That Haunted Me

To Forget Is to Remain Trapped in Purgatory, but Reimagining Horror Can Bring Catharsis

Mary Turner.

That name is forever etched into my memory … into my existence, as an artist, a writer, a woman, a mother, a human being.

On May 19, 1918, in Valdosta, Georgia, Mary Turner and a group of black men were killed in a mob-driven manhunt. Hampton Smith, a white landowner, known for being a harsh boss to his Negro employees, was shot and killed by a young black man named Sidney Johnson. Because they had met Sidney at their home, the crime was linked to Hayes and Mary Turner. Over a span of three sweltering summer nights many were killed. The blood of the guilty and innocent soon became mixed as one, for the simple reason that black blood—innocent or not—is still black blood. …

STORY
*Illustration by Celia Jacobs

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