Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching

Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching

by Julie Buckner Armstrong


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Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching traces the reaction of activists, artists, writers, and local residents to the brutal lynching of a pregnant woman near Valdosta, Georgia. In 1918, the murder of a white farmer led to a week of mob violence that claimed the lives of at least eleven African Americans, including Hayes Turner. When his wife Mary vowed to press charges against the killers, she too fell victim to the mob.

Mary’s lynching was particularly brutal and involved the grisly death of her eight-month-old fetus. It led to both an entrenched local silence and a widespread national response in newspaper and magazine accounts, visual art, film, literature, and public memorials. Turner’s story became a centerpiece of the Anti-Lynching Crusaders campaign for the 1922 Dyer Bill, which sought to make lynching a federal crime. Julie Buckner Armstrong explores the complex and contradictory ways this horrific event was remembered in works such as Walter White’s report in the NAACP’s newspaper the Crisis, the “Kabnis” section of Jean Toomer’s Cane, Angelina Weld Grimké’s short story “Goldie,” and Meta Fuller’s sculpture Mary Turner: A Silent Protest against Mob Violence.

Like those of Emmett Till and Leo Frank, Turner’s story continues to resonate on multiple levels. Armstrong’s work provides insight into the different roles black women played in the history of lynching: as victims, as loved ones left behind, and as those who fought back. The crime continues to defy conventional forms of representation, illustrating what can, and cannot, be said about lynching and revealing the difficulty and necessity of confronting this nation’s legacy of racial violence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780820337654
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Publication date: 08/01/2011
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 6.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Julie Buckner Armstrong is an associate professor of English at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She is coeditor of Teaching the American Civil Rights Movement: Freedom’s Bittersweet Song and editor of The Civil Rights Reader: American Literature from Jim Crow to Reconciliation (Georgia).

Table of Contents


Introduction Chapter One. Birth and Nation: Mary Turner and the Discourse of Lynching Chapter Two. Silence, Voice, and Motherhood: Constructing Lynching as a Black Woman's Issue Chapter Three. Brutal Facts and Split-Gut Words: Constructing Lynching as a National Trauma Chapter Four. Contemporary Confrontations: Recovering the Memory of Mary Turner Conclusion. Marking a Collective Past

Appendixes Appendix 1. "Hamp Smith Murdered; Young Wife Attacked by Negro Farm Hands"
Appendix 2. "Her Talk Enraged Them: Mary Turner Taken to Folsom's Bridge and Hanged"
Appendix 3. Joseph B. Cumming, Letter to the Editor Appendix 4. The Colored Welfare League, Resolutions Adopted and Sent to Governor Dorsey Urging that He Exercise His Authority Against Such Acts of Barbarism Appendix 5. Colored Federated Clubs of Georgia, Resolutions Expressive of Feelings Sent to President and Governor Appendix 6. Memorandum for Governor Dorsey from Walter F. White Appendix 7. Carrie Williams Clifford, "Little Mother (Upon the Lynching of Mary Turner)"
Appendix 8. Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, "dirty south moon"

Notes Bibliography Index

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