Mary Turner honored 100 years after murder

Published: May. 20, 2018 at 9:26 PM EDT
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By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News

May 20, 2018

HAHIRA, Ga. (WCTV) -- A South Georgia community is turning atrocities into change, commemorating the life of Mary Turner 100 years after her brutal murder.

This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the 'lynching rampage' in Hahira. Thirteen people were killed.

Mary Turner was 21 years old and eight months pregnant. She was brutally killed for speaking out and protesting the murder of her husband.

Relatives and descendants of Turner joined dozens of community members in song and praise, learning about her story and honoring her life.

"We know now what our family stands for, strong women in our family, it always has been," said Turner's great granddaughter Audrey Grant. "We want to pursue that and continue the work that my grandmother started. And you may ask me, what work? The work of justice is what we're all about."

The event was organized by the Mary Turner Project. Mark George, one of the founders, said learning from the past is how we can change the future.

"As Americans we suffer from historical amnesia. I fished in this river, my grandmother fished in this river, I've canoed this river, and I never knew these slaughters had happened here. So I think it's important for us to know where we're from, know what's in the ground that we walk on," George said.

"The south has a legacy of silence around what our history is. This is an American story, lynching happened in other parts of the country, the slaughter of indigenous people have happened, Latino people. I think we're a country that suffers from not dealing with that, not confronting that. I think we all as humans, citizens, have to think about what our legacy should be, and I don't want to be someone that's silence about this," George continued.

Relatives of Turner are now transforming a tragedy into a catalyst for change.

"To educate people about what happened so that our children can understand and know that we don't want to live in a society that is very unjust to women, or to anyone. It doesn't matter if we're black or what or who we are, we want to stand for justice," Grant said.

The Mary Turner Project continues to educate and raise awareness about the history of South Georgia.