Mary Turner and The May 1918 Lynchings

  • This entry of Black History 365 has situations of graphic violence. Reader discretion is advised.

This true crime story I’ll be presenting in this entry Black History 365  is an event in history that I for one didn’t know about and you might not have known. The horrors of slavery and Jim Crow segregation complied an array of racial terror attacks that were brutal and some of them did make it front-page news i.e. Till murder.  This true-crime story in Black History I’m going to present was one of the many deaths that served as in the inspiration for Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit”. With that said, onto the events that occurred on the date of May 19th 1918 in Southern Georgia, United States. 

May 19th 1918 in Southern Georgia, United States was a terrifying day that ended in the gruesome murders of a group of black individuals in the form of lynchings. The most notable death was a woman by the name of Mary Turner. Not much is know about Mary Turner’s background, but what is known is that she was a soon to be a mother before her murder. 

Mary Turner, a black woman who was eight months pregnant, was lynched by a white mob from Brooks County, Georgia at  Folsom’s Bridge 16 miles north of Valdosta for speaking publicly against the lynching of her husband the day before. What I’m about to say is going to be graphic, so you’ve been warned. When the white mob captured Turner, they bound her feet, hung her upside from a tree, threw gasoline on her, and burned her clothes. The mob took their heinous actions and brutality to the extreme that led to the still alive Turner’s abdomen being torn by a mob member’s butcher knife, resulting in them cutting the unborn baby from her. Brace yourself for what you’re about to hear. Once the baby fell from Mary Turner, a member of the mob crushed the crying baby’s head with his foot. Afterward, Mrs. Turner’s body became target practice for the mob. They went to riddle her body with hundreds of bullets, killing her. 

I’m going to backtrack to what caused and led to Mary Turner’s capture and death. Mary Turner’s husband Hayes Turner had been lynched the day before. Hayes Turner was accused of being an accomplice in the killing of a notorious white farmer, Hampton Smith, who was well known for his abuse of black farmworkers. Mr. Smith would bail black people accused of petty crimes out of jail and then require them to work off the fine at his farm. Avoiding jail time to work off his fight might seem like the better deal, but Sidney Johnson, a black man working to pay off a legal fee for “rolling dice” or simply gambling confessed to killing Mr. Smith during a quarrel about being overworked. Police officers killed Johnson in a shootout. When news reached the white community, Mr. Turner and other black farm workers who had been previously accused by Mr. Smith were targeted and accused of conspiracy. 

Many black people during this time were lynched based on mere accusations of murder against white people. The same was true here, at least seven confirmed black individuals were lynched by the white mob in response to Hampton Smith’s death, inflicting community – wide racial terror and violence.

Mrs. Turner was grieving and spoke out against her husband’s death, promising to take legal action. Enraged by this, the white mob made an example of Mrs. Turner, despite having not to fear actual legal repercussions from her promise, as black people at that time were afforded judicial processing. The lynching of Turner and her unborn child from the white mob’s perspective was to maintain white supremacy, silence her, and communicate to the black community that no dissent from the racial order would be tolerated. To no surprise, no member was ever held accountable for the lynching of Mary Turner and her unborn baby. 

The grotesque execution of a black woman eight months pregnant reveals a great deal about how  black women were dehumanized with impunity. There has been a documented number of 594 racial terror lynchings between 1877 and 1950 in the state of Georgia. Brooks County had the third – highest number of documented racial terror lynchings.

Leave a like if you learned something new from this piece of history. Also, give my page a follow so you stay up to date with my future posts. As always peace and keep it real.

The Ole Miss riot (Black History 365)

Welcome to Black History 365 a series where I explain, educate and explore historical events, unsung black figures in world history and recount the struggles and triumphs of black people worldwide. In this entry I’ll be presenting the story of the riot at Ole Miss in 1962.

The year is 1962 in Oxford Mississippi and James H. Meredith, an African American student, is escorted onto the University of Mississippi campus by U.S. Marshals, which then provoked a deadly riot. Two men were killed before the racial violence was quelled by more than 3,000 federal soldiers. The next day, Meredith successfully enrolled and began to attend classes amid continuing disruption.

Meredith, a native of Mississippi and former Air Force veteran was accepted to the University of Mississippi in 1962, but his admission was revoked when the admissions office found his out about his race. Subsequently, a federal court ordered “ole miss” to admit him, but when tried to register on September 20th 1962, he found the entrance to the office blocked by Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. Eight days later Barnett was found guilty of civil contempt and was ordered to cease his interference with desegregation at the university or face arrest and a fine of $10,000 a day. 

In 1966 Meredith returned to the public eye when he began a lone civil rights march in an attempt to encourage voter registration by African Americans in the south. During this March Against Fear, Meredith intended to walk from Memphis Tennessee to Jackson Mississippi. However, on June 6th two days into the march, he was sent to a hospital due to a sniper’s bullet.  
Meredith had assistance with continuing the March from Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokley Carmichael. It was during the March Against Fear that Carmicheal the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, first spoke publicly of “Black Power” his concept of militant African American nationalism. When James Meredith recovered he rejoined the movement the march he started successfully reached Jackson Mississippi.

Leave a like if you learned something new from this post, and give my page follow so you stay up to date with my future posts. As always peace and keep it real.

Till Death to Confess: The Murder of Emmett Till (Black History 365)

This horrific story is one of the most recognized crimes in America’s racist history. I remember watching a Dave Chappelle special that he had a few years back when he made his comeback, and near the end, he brought up the true crime story that was a fuel that ignited the civil rights movements and that was the murder of Emmett Till. 

The date is August 28th, 1955, and 14-year old Emmett Till an African American kid from Chicago is brutally murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman four days earlier. His assailant, the white woman’s husband and his brother forced Till to carry a 75-pound cotton gin fan to the bank of Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. Following that, the two men then proceeded to beat Till nearly to death, gouged out his eyes, shot him in the head, and then threw his body tied to the cotton gin fan with barbed wire into the river. 

Who was Emmett Till? 

Till grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Southside Chicago, and though he attended a segregated elementary school, he was ill – equipped for the level of segregation he would encounter in Mississippi. Till would receive warnings from his mother to be careful when embarking the deep south due to his race. Emmett was an upbeat kid and liked pulling pranks but a place like Mississippi back then had no tolerance for expressive nature. On August 24th, 1955, while standing with his cousins and some friends outside a county store in Money Mississippi. Till was acting braggadocious saying that his girlfriend back home was white. His friends, all young black boys, disbelieved him and dared Emmett to ask the white woman sitting behind the store for a date. 

He went in, bought some candy, and on his way out was heard saying “Bye, baby” to the women. Interestingly enough there were no witnesses in the store, but Carol Bryant the woman behind the counter claimed that he grabbed her and made lewd advances towards her and topped it off with a wolf whistle at her as he walked out the store. It was his word against hers if her accusations were to ever go to court against Till, but things escalated quickly before any truth was ever to be discovered. 

Till’s Murder

Roy Bryant, the owner of the store and the woman’s husband, returned from a business trip a few days later and was informed how Emmett had allegedly spoken to his wife. Irate, he went to the home of Till’s great uncle, Moses Wright, with half-brother J.W. Milam in the early morning hours of August 28th. 

The pair demanded to see the boy. Despite pleas from Wright, they forced Emmett into their car. They drove around in the night and took their time torturing Till in a toolhouse behind Milam’s residence. Thereafter, they drove him down to the Tallahatchie River. It was three days later that Till’s corpse was recovered but he was so disfigured beyond recognition that only his great uncle Moses Wright could identify him by an initialed ring Till wore. Authorities wanted to bury the body quickly, but Till’s mother, Mamie Bradley, requested it to be sent back to Chicago. 

Emmett Till Is Anne Frank To Black America'

Open – Casket Funeral 

After his mother saw the mutilated remains decided to have an open-casket funeral so that the world could see what the racist murderers did to her son. “Jet” an African American weekly magazine published a photo of Till’s corpse, and soon the mainstream media picked up the story. Furthermore, less than two weeks after Till’s body was buried Milam and Bryant went on trial in a segregated courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi. Other than Moses Wright, there were a few witnesses who could positively identify the defendants as Till’s killers. 

On September 23rd, 1955, the all-white jury deliberated for less than an hour before issuing a verdict of “not guilty” explaining that the reason they came to that decision was that they believed the state had failed to prove the identity of the body. Subsequently, many people around the country were outraged by the decision and also by the state’s decision not to indict Milam and Bryant on the separate charge of kidnapping. 

Carol Bryant’s Confession

The Emmett Till murder trial brought to light the brutality of Jim Crow segregation in the south and was the early catalyst of the civil rights movement. In 2017, Tim Tyson the author of the book “The Blood of Emmett Till revealed that Carol Bryant recanted her testimony admitting that Till never touched, threatened, or harassed her. “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” she said. 

The living legacy of Emmett Till's casket | Facing South

Leave a like and comment if you’d like to chime in. Also give my page so you can stay up to date with my future posts. Lastly, check out my podcast “Black History 365 : The Throw Down” on Spotify or any other podcast platforms you use. As always peace and keep it real.

4 little girls : 1963 Birmingham church bombing (Black History 365)

Welcome readers to another entry in my Black History 365 series where I present and explain historical events that have affected black people worldwide from the Americas, Africa, Caribbean and so forth. Some of the stories are familiar to some and some are not which is the reason I created this series to explore, educate and expand readers understanding of the black struggle and black triumphs in the face of obstacles and oppression.

It’s September 15th, 1963 and a bomb explodes during Sunday morning services at the 16th street Baptist church in Birmingham Alabama killing four young girls; Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Carol Denise McNair (11).

The 16th Street Baptist church served as a meeting place for civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. who once dubbed Birmingham as a “symbol of hardcore resistance to integration”. Alabama’s governor George Wallace made racial segregation one of the central goals of his administration, and this created one of the most violent and lawless chapters of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama. Once this was established their reign of terrorist attacks began and one of their targets was the church.

Baptist Street Church Bombing — FBI

When the bombing occurred it was the third in Birmingham in 11 days after a federal order came down to integrate Alabama’s school system. Fifteen sticks of dynamite were planted in the church basement, underneath what would turn out to be the girl’s bathroom. At 10:19 AM the bomb detonated killing Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins (all 14 years old) and 11-year-old Denise McNair. Immediately after the blast the church members rushed out the church discombobulated, in pain and bloodied. Covered in debris and broken stained glass surrounding them, they began helping survivors through the rubble. More than 20 other members of the congregation were injured in the blast. 

Remembering the Birmingham church bombing | Southern Poverty Law ...
The 4 girls. Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins (all 14 years old) and 11-year-old Denise McNair.

In the aftermath irate black protesters assembled at the crime scene. George Wallace sent hundreds of police and state troopers to the area to break up the crowd. Two young black men were killed that night, one by police and another by racist thugs. Meanwhile, public outrage over the bombing continued to grow, drawing international attention to Birmingham. At the funeral for three of the girls, one of the girls’ families preferred a separate, private service. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed more than 8,000 mourners. 

A well known Klan member, Robert Edward Chambliss was charged with murder and with buying 122 sticks of dynamite. In October 1963, Chambliss was cleared of the murder charge and received a six-month jail sentence and a $100 fine for the dynamite. During the FBI investigation three other men – Bobby Frank Cherry, Herman Cash, and Thomas E. Blanton Jr. was arrested for having helped Chambliss commit the crime. Subsequently, it was later revealed that FBI chairman J. Edgar Hoover blocked their prosecution and shut down the investigation without filing charges in 1968. Justice for the murders became stagnant and bleak after the case was closed, but once general Bill Baxley reopened the case it resulted in the conviction of Chambliss in 1977 and he was sentenced to life in prison. 

Robert Edward Chambliss - Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia
Robert Edward Chambliss

Efforts to prosecute the other three men believed responsible for the bombing continued for decades. Even though Cash died in 1994, Cherry and Blanton were arrested and charged with four counts of murder in 2000. Blanton was sentenced to life in prison. Cherry’s trial was delayed after judges ruled he was mentally incompetent to stand trial. However, this decision was later reversed. On May 22nd, 2002 was convicted and sentenced to life, bringing a long-awaited victory to the friends and families of the four young victims.

16th Street Baptist Church bombing | History & Four Girls | Britannica

Hate and Love

  • In the memory of George Floyd

Hating is easy, but loving takes a lot more effort and integrity. For example, I’ll equate love to earning an “A” in school. You have to exert a lot of effort to be prepared for and do well on exams, do your homework, and attend classes regularly to get that coveted grade. That’s what love exemplifies, you have to work very hard to get the best outcome. On the other hand, hate can be equated to earning an “F”. As mentioned before, hating is easy and earning an “F” is just as easy. For one by neglecting to demonstrate any effort and providing mediocre attempts at applying oneself in their studies, the outcome would be inevitable. It all comes down to change, a failing student can always right his or her wrongs and become an “A’ student and so can hateful people towards people and things they discriminate against. 

While you’re praying for things to change, your enemy is PREYING. – TheRhymeRula

Hate and Love

Hating is easy, but loving takes a lot more effort and integrity. For example, I’ll equate love to earning an “A” in school. You have to exert a lot of effort to be prepared for and do well on exams, do your homework, and attend classes regularly to get that coveted grade. That’s what love exemplifies, you have to work very hard to get the best outcome. On the other hand, hate can be equated to earning an “F”. As mentioned before, hating is easy and earning an “F” is just as easy. For one by neglecting to demonstrate any effort and providing mediocre attempts at applying oneself in their studies, the outcome would be inevitable. It all comes down to change, a failing student can always right his or her wrongs and become an “A’ student and so can hateful people towards people and things they discriminate against.  

While you’re praying for things to change, your enemy is PREYING. – TheRhymeRula

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