HAHIRA, Ga. – A small Georgia community is revisiting the brutal lynching a young black woman that will forever be linked to its history.
Mary Turner was lynched by a mob on the Brooks-Lowndes County line in 1918 in south Georgia.
Her relatives, community members and out-of-state visitors are scheduled to commemorate her death with a gathering 10 a.m. Saturday, May 18, Webb Miller Community Church, said Mark George, event organizer and a founder of the Mary Turner Project.
There will be a program and food at the church followed by a caravan to the historical marker commemorating the site where Mary Turner was killed.
History shows that a white Brooks County plantation owner often bailed people out of jail. He then worked them on his land until he considered the bail debt repaid. In 1918, he bailed out a 19-year-old black man, who refused to work because he said he was sick. The white man beat the black teen. After the beating, the black teen shot and killed the white plantation owner, according to past articles on the incident.
The death spurred a “mob-driven manhunt” for the teen and others believed to be involved in the shooting.
“That manhunt lasted for more than a week and resulted in the deaths of at least 13 people, with some historical accounts suggesting a higher number of persons killed,” according to the Mary Turner Project.
The historical marker mentions 11 people killed. Mary Turner and her husband were among this number.
In May 1918, Mary Turner protested the killing of her husband. She was 21 years old and eight months pregnant; previous accounts have suggested she was only 20 years old.
She threatened to swear out warrants, which “enraged locals ... Mary Turner fled for her life only to be caught and taken to a place called Folsom’s Bridge on the Brooks and Lowndes counties’ shared border.”
The mob tied her ankles, hanging her upside down from a tree. They doused her with gasoline, burning away her clothes. They cut her baby from her and killed the unborn child. They riddled Mary Turner’s body with bullets.
She and the baby were buried 10 feet away. George said Turner's death occurred between May 19-21, 1918.
Turner's deat received local, state and national attention last year due to the unveiling of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala. But Mary Turner has been commemorated regularly in South Georgia for the past several years. Past events led to the historical marker on the site of Turner's death.
The Hahira-based event Saturday is about "reconciliation and healing," George said in past interviews.
George has said stories such as Mary Turner's are difficult pieces of history but they are pieces of history that must be examined.
"When we pretend this didn't happen, we make a comment about what we think about black lives," George said.
The public is invited to attend the commemoration Saturday.