100 years ago this weekend, Hays and Mary Turner, husband and wife, were brutally lynched near Valdosta, Georgia

After Hampton Smith, a wealthy plantation owner, was allegedly murdered by Sidney Johnson, a black man, in Brooks County in South Georgia in May of 1918, when an angry local white mob could not find Johnson, said whites began a killing spree of random blacks in Brooks and Lowndes County that would leave nearly a dozen men and women dead.

One of the first men to be lynched was Mr. Hays Turner, 26 (depicted below), strung up by the cowardly mob on or about May 17th.


When Turner’s 20-year-old wife, Mary, learned of what happened, she vowed to go to the authorities to get justice for her innocent husband. Mrs. Turner, eight months pregnant at the time, was then abducted by the same cowardly mob and on or about May 19th, after being led to the field where her dead husband’s lifeless remains were still dangling by the neck for her to see, she, too, was lynched on a nearby tree. Mrs. Turner’s lifeless remains were forever memorialized by the picture below.


Mary’s lynching was no ordinary macabre spectacle; Walter White, the legendary NAACP leader and anti-lynching advocate, wrote: “Mocking, ribald laughter from her tormenters answered the helpless woman’s screams of pain and terror. ‘Mister, you ought to’ve heard the nigger wench howl!’ a member of the mob boasted to me a few days later… The clothes [having] burned from her crisply toasted body in which, unfortunately, life still lingered, a man stepped towards the woman and, with his knife, ripped open the abdomen in a crude Caesarean operation. Out tumbled the prematurely born child. Two feeble cries it gave — and received for answer the heel of a stalwart man, as life was ground out of the tiny form.”

Yes, you read right; Mrs. Turner, a wife and mother who was eight months pregnant, not only was brutally beaten and burned by a malevolent mob simply because she wanted justice for her husband, but as the lynching rope strangled the last bit of life from her, her abdomen was cut open and her baby fell to the ground–alive, crying–until another mob member stomped the child to death with his boots.

Their lives mattered…Their love mattered…Their family unit, while still enduring, was never the same…

Their memory matters…


Lest we forget…