The lynching memorial that opened last week in Montgomery has exposed anew the barbarism and savagery of white supremacy in the post-Civil War South.
The memorial lists thousands of people across the country, many of them tortured, all of them murdered, for any reason the white mob could devise — or for no reason at all. The documented tally in Georgia was 637. Some in Georgia today don’t know about these crimes. Some can’t forget about them. But from the time of Reconstruction until well into the 20th century, these horrors were and remain part of our story.
A database maintained by the Tuskegee Institute offers a spare record of unimaginable carnage in Georgia: six men lynched for arson in April 1899 in Palmetto. Three months later, eight men lynched in Early County, all accused of “rape and robbery.” In 1892, a man lynched in Dalton because he “voted Democratic.”
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery commemorates the deaths of these and 5,000 other people taken by mobs that hanged, shot or burned their victims to death. Sometimes they did all three.
So Mary Turner knew she was about to die.
It was May 19, 1918, almost exactly 100 years ago. The lynch mob in Brooks County had already tortured and killed eight black men in two days — retaliation for the shooting death of a white planter.