The Lynching Of Mary Turner
Eight Months Pregnant And Lynched For Complaining About Her Husband's Lynching
Depending on the date you choose, slavery ended either on January 1, 1863 (the Emancipation Proclamation), April 9, 1865, when the Civil War Ended, June 19, 1865, when word got to Texas (Juneteenth), or December 6, 1865, when the 13th Amendment was ratified. Ironically it was Georgia, where Mary Turner was born, which became the 27th state to ratify and approve the 13th Amendment, ending slavery throughout the United States. However, there is an exception to the 13th Amendment; enslavement was still allowed. Anyone convicted of a crime could still be considered a slave or indentured servant and be treated as such. For those individuals, enslavement wasn't over; it just had a new name.
"Section 1: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." — 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Georgia was one of many states that exploited this practice to provide convict labor, slavery by another name, to local businesses, mostly farmers. Hampton Smith was a 25-year-old white planter who owned Old Joyce Place near Morven, GA, in Brooks County. Smith had a reputation for abusing workers and faced difficulty attracting farm laborers. Instead of changing his ways, Smith paid their fines and leased convicts, including Sidney Johnson, a Black man incarcerated for "playing dice." Mass incarceration became the byproduct of the systemic convict leasing labor scheme, which was introduced as part of the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws after the Civil War ended.
Hampton Smith beat Sidney Johnson on multiple occasions; Smith had a history of violence among other Black workers as well. He once beat a female worker, Mary Turner. When her husband, Hayes Turner, complained, an all-white jury convicted him and sentenced him to a chain gang. Meanwhile, having received one too many beatings, Sydney Johnson shot Hampton Smith and his wife through a window. Hampton Smith died, and his wife, while wounded, survived. Johnson fled and hid in neighboring Valdosta County while a white mob conducted a manhunt in Brooks County.