Pregnant woman remembered - CBS46 News

Pregnant woman remembered nearly 100 years after horrific lynching

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VALDOSTA, GA (CBS46) -

On May 19, 1918, Mary Turner, 21, and her unborn child were murdered.

Turner was 8-months pregnant when a lynch mob abducted, then killed her in cold blood.

Turner spoke out about the death of her husband, Hayes Turner, who was lynched the day before. Hayes Turner was accused in a conspiracy to kill plantation owner Hampton Smith, known to abuse and beat his workers, according to historical reports.

The events that happened that Sunday were chronicled in newspaper articles across the country like a gossip column of death. The descriptions on how she was killed are difficult for anyone to stomach.

"She took action. And because she took action she was hung, and tarred, and burned as well as her unborn baby," Audrey Grant said.  

Grant is Turner's great granddaughter. When she learned the details of that day she was overcome with sadness.

"I had a few moments there myself… deep emotions," Grant said. "It just almost seems like it is something that just happened. Once all the information is presented, and all of us as family, and friends get together and start talking about it, we get very emotional."

The family has been talking about it more and more since Valdosta State University Professor Dr. Mark George started the Mary Turner Project.

"This is a person that spoke out and knew she was going to be killed," George said.

George is the Adjunct Professor for Women's and Gender Studies. He said the Mary Turner Project has a number of goals. One is to digitize the 1860 U.S. Slave Schedules in order to create a free, searchable database at www.slavecensus.com that the public can use to search their ancestorial names.

"This project was started because we have repeatedly heard that people lack the access or resources to see if their ancestors owned enslaved people or were enslaved," George said.

The Mary Turner Project is also in the process of creating a national, searchable database on more than 2,600 documented lynchings in the U.S. That database will enable the public to search lynching victims by name, year, location, race, gender, mob type, and alleged crime.

"History is important, everybody's history is important," George said. "I think uncovering the truth helps us understand our past and the racial divide we live in every day."

Grant said descendants of Mary Turner try and visit the historical marker that was placed just outside the city limits of Valdosta along the Little River in 2010. It sits just off the road at the corner of Georgia 122 and Wells Road.  

The marker honors Mary Turner in a way her family members said should make others think about this horrific murder all in the name of racism. Her body was never recovered, at the time the mob marked that shallow grave with an empty whiskey bottle and a burning cigar placed inside.

The crime that happened to her great grandmother has emboldened the family to speak out for Mary Turner after death.

"I am very fortunate to even know and have this information in hand," Grant said. "We don't want our children to not know what happened. Just because we come from a family that were slaves, it doesn't mean we are less and as a matter of fact it uplifts me. It doesn't matter what color we are. History is history. It really brings everybody together, to know where we came from, and what happened in those times."

For more information on how you can volunteer to help just go to their website, the Mary Turner Project.

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