The Mary Turner Project
mary turner historical marker
The Mary Turner Project

The Mary Turner Project (MTP) is a diverse, grassroots volunteer collective of students, educators, and community members who are committed to racial justice and racial healing. That commitment involves educating ourselves and others about the presence of racism, the multiple forms of racism, and the effects of racism, so that we may become involved in eliminating racism. Much of our work centers on research driven community engagement and action relevative to past and current racial injustice. The first of those includes the creation of a free, searchable, web based database on U.S. slavery. The second initiative involves the creation of a free, searchable database on all known lynchings in the U.S. And our third initiative involves a collaborative campaign to engage state sponsored Confederate culture in Georgia.

As part of our ongoing work, the MTP also organizes an annual Mary Turner Commemoration each May. That multiracial, multigenerational event is attended by people from all over the country. It involves a shared meal, a short program, reflections from the descendants of the 1918 lynching victims, and a caravan out to the site of Mary Turner's murder. There the group shares thoughts, poetry, song and prayers. The public is always invited to this historic event which takes place in Hahira, Georgia. Below are a few scenes from the 2010 gathering.

For more information about this event simply send us an email.

Current Work

Project Accomplishments

The development of the Mary Turner website that you are now visiting. This site has experienced thousands of visits and has made the story of Mary Turner and the other victims of 1918 available to the world. The MTP hopes to expand the website in the near future to include digitalized copies of all historical documents related to the Mary Turner story and other lynchings in the region. We are also in the process of adding slides and video from assorted MTP events.

The MTP has distributed hundreds of pamphlets throughout the university and the local community chronicling the saga of Mrs. Turner and the events of 1918. Those pamphlets have and continue to be circulated in the Southeast and are now available on the MTP documents webpage. The MTP plans to produce a more detailed publication that that can be used to educate students in local and regional schools about the racial history of the region.

john bakerMembers have presented the story of Mary Turner and the work of the MTP at more than 40 local and regional events. Consequently, the story of Mary Turner and the events of 1918 are now common knowledge among area citizens. In 2009 students from the MTP presented the Mary Turner story at Valdosta State University's Undergraduate Research Symposium and the 2009 Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) annual State Convention. They, in addition to more than 150 other Valdosta State students, also attended and petitioned the City of Valdosta to help with the erection of a memorial to Mary Turner.

That same year Valdosta State faculty members secured a $1000 university sponsored research grant. Those funds enabled Dr. Tracy Woodard Myers to conduct further research at the Georgia Archives on the Turner family and the potential economic consequences of lynching.

Throughout 2009 the MTP compiled and provided historical document packets for descendents of the Turner family. Research was also done and provided to members of the Will Head family. Members of both families reciprocated by sharing the information they had with the MTP in addition to becoming supporters of the project.


The MTP organized a truly historic memorial service on May 17th, 2009 for Mary Turner and the other victims of the 1918 lynching rampage. More than 130 community and family members attended the service where family members shared their stories, members of the MTP discussed the purpose and work of their group, and the upcoming installation of the historical marker was announced. In addition to breaking bread together at the local community center, a motorcade of more than 50 cars drove to the site of Mary Turner's murder for prayer and to reflect on the events of 1918. (Valdosta Times coverage and Editorial)

unveiling marker In 2009 MTP members raised $1500 and successfully petitioned for the installation of a state sponsored historical marker documenting the events of May 1918. The MTP also gained approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation for the location of that marker. After negotiating with Georgia Historical Society regarding what the text of the marker would state, the completed marker was installed and dedicated in 2010.

rebel flag In response to area fraternities displaying the confederate flag, on September 28, 2009 the MTP organized "Heritage, Hate, or Fear, A Community Discussion about Southern Symbols and Their Meaning" (click for video from the event). This public forum was organized to discuss the use of the Confederate flag by local fraternities at Valdosta State University. More than 125 students, faculty, and community members attended to dialog and get information about the history of this divisive symbol, student's free speech rights, why many people don't know the history of this symbol, and its impact on multicultural affairs and race relations (Valdosta Daily Times and Valdosta State Spectator coverage).

laverne gaskins On March 30, 2010 the MTP organized "Exploring the Political Climate Since the Election of President Barack Obama." This public forum was organized to discuss the contemporary political climate and what that climate reveals about us as a nation. Panelists included VSU faculty, representatives from the local Republican and Democratic parties, as well as a number of local community leaders. The goal of the event was to have constructive dialog about where we are politically as a community/nation and whether current differences reflect ongoing racial animosities (Valdosta Daily Times coverage).

family at marker On May 15th, 2010, the MTP held its second commemoration for the victims of 1918 and dedicated the recently erected Mary Turner Historical Marker. Over a hundred people were attendance, some from as far away as California. The half day commemoration including speakers, prayers, thoughts from the decedents of the Turner family, and a meal together. The commemoration closed with the group gathering at the memorial site for a moment of reflections and sharing.

meal On May 17th, 2013, the MTP held its third commemoration for the victims of 1918. The half day commemoration including speakers, prayers, thoughts from the decedents of the Turner family, and a meal together. Randy McClain, the great nephew of Hattie Graham (Mary Turner) presented a PowerPoint of the Graham family that tracked Mrs. Turner's lineage to the present day. The commemoration closed with the group gathering at the memorial site for a moment of reflections and sharing.

slave forum On April 1st, 2014 the MTP held a historical public forum entitled "Coming to Terms with Slavery in South Georgia" where it shared is research on the scope and scale of slavery in the region. The event was attended my more that 160 students, faculty, and community members. To download a pamphlet that outlines some of the information that was presented at the forum click on this link (click here for Valdosta Daily Times coverage).

slave forum On May 17th, 2014 the MTP held its 4th Mary Turner Commemoration event in Hahira, Georgia. Over 100 people attended the program, shared a meal together, caravanned out the historic marker for song, prayer, and reflections. This year was especially powerful because the Graham/Grant families (the descendants of Mary Turner) had their family reunion the same weekend and coordinated this year's event.

And our work continues.....We hope you will consider becoming a part of it.

To join the Mary Turner Project or if you just want to stay informed about our work let us know and we will add you to our email list. Thanks for your support and interest in the project.