Literature professor honored for book on lynching

USF St. Petersburg Associate Professor of Literature Julie Armstrong, Ph.D., has been honored by The Society for the Study of Southern Literature for her book, Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching.

Dr. Armstrong, the Literature Program Coordinator at USFSP, received the Holman Honorable Mention Award for 2012, which was created specifically to honor her book.

The C. Hugh Holman Award is presented annually to the best book of literary criticism or scholarship in southern literature. This year the award went to Jean W. Cash for Larry Brown: A Writer’s Life. But the voting was so close and the judges were so impressed with Dr. Armstrong’s book that they created the Holman Honorable Mention Award to honor it.

“For me, to be so close was huge,” Dr. Armstrong said.

“Julie is at the forefront of her field and her faculty could not be more pleased, especially since the organization created a special award to recognize her achievement,” said Frank Biafora, PhD., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It shows the extraordinary scholarship that’s taking place at USF St. Petersburg.”

Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching tells the largely forgotten but horrific story of Mary Turner’s lynching and studies the responses to it by local residents, activists and writers.

Mrs. Turner was eight months pregnant when she was seized by a mob and taken to a bridge near Valdosta, Ga.. “There a crowd of several hundred watched the mob hang her upside down, shoot her, set her on fire, remove her fetus, and stomp the unborn child into the ground,” Dr. Armstrong writes in the opening of her book.

Mrs. Turner was murdered to prevent her from pressing charges against the people who murdered her husband.

The Tampa Bay Times called  Dr. Armstrong’s writing powerful and compelling. “She writes movingly of being so repelled by some of the research that she found it difficult to go on,” the Times Book Editor Colette Bancroft wrote. “But she did, and she finds satisfaction in having helped bring a dark chapter in our history back into the light.”

Dr. Armstrong will receive her award at the American Literature Association conference in Boston, May 23-26.