Mary Turner was a 19-year-old black woman born in 1899 to Perry Graham and Elizabeth Johnson in Brooks County, Georgia. When Turner was eight months pregnant, she was murdered after she publicly denounced the unlawful extrajudicial killing of her husband, Hazel Turner.
On the evening of May 16, 1918, a white planter who was known to abuse and beat his workers, Hampton Smith, was shot and killed on the plantation by a black worker, 18-year-old Sidney Johnson. Smith resolved the labor shortage through the use of convict labor, paid Johnson’s $30 fine (Johnson had been convicted of playing dice), and forced him to work on his plantation.
Johnson had been beaten several times by Smith, even days before Smith’s death; he was beaten severely by Smith for refusing to work while he was sick. Smith also had a long history with Mary Turner and her husband. Turner’s husband had been…
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