My Return to Valdosta: Mary Turner and the Lynching Rampage of 1918

Ben at Mary Turner's Marker

My first time in Valdosta was nearly 30 years ago. In 1990, I attended the Governor’s Honors Program at Valdosta State College.  It was a turning point for me when I woke up “academically,” and I have fond memories of those times and the brilliant people that I met.

I left Valdosta with a mindset to achieve and succeed in ways that I never dreamt possible.  After being gone for 28 years, I was fortunate to return to Valdosta and have another eye-opening and motivating experience with those of us who commemorated the 100-year centennial of horrific events that had transpired there in Valdosta.

The historical accounts of what happened to Mary Turner during the lynching rampage of 1918 are overwhelming.  The iron marker states, “Near this site on May 19, 1918, twenty-one year old Mary Turner, eight months pregnant, was burned, mutilated, and shot to death by a local mob after publicly denouncing her husband’s lynching the previous day.”

No one knows for sure whether she was still alive after the mob burned her clothes off, but that hardly mattered. Neither did it matter that Mary Turner was eight months pregnant. As her body hung from the tree, someone took a knife, “such as one used in splitting hogs,” and split Mary Turner’s abdomen open. Her baby fell to the ground and cried.
A member of the mob crushed the baby’s head. Others in the mob shot Mary Turner’s body hundreds of times.
– Ernie Suggs and Rosalind Bentley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“No charges were ever brought against known or suspected participants in these crimes,” the marker concludes.

Ironically, the centennial’s date (May 19, 2018) was also the same day as the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan.  It’s difficult seeing a significant historical moment get eclipsed by current events…especially events that celebrate the British monarchy in spite of its unique, historic role in the colonization and subjugation of indigenous peoples worldwide.

Does introducing someone of mixed-ethnic descent into the British royal bloodlines make-up for centuries of subjugation?  Let’s discuss.

Here’s a video chronicle about the trip…


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