Black and white rendering of Bishop Turner

Rev. H.M. Turner. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. “Rev. Henry M. Turner, Bishop of the African M. E. Church.” New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Bishop Turner led a full life, having fourteen children and marrying four times. He had two sons who lived, born of his first marriage to Miss Eliza Ann Peacher in 1856. In 1893, he married Mrs. Martha Elizabeth DeWitt. Outliving his first wife and second wife, he married the widow of the late AME Bishop A. W. Wayman; Harriet Wayman became his wife in 1900. Unfortunately, Wayman also left Turner widowed. Finally, he married Laura Pearl Lemon in 1907. Turner’s wives were powerful teachers, activists, and reformers in the AME church and the broader community in their own right.

Bishop Turner was known for his radical views on women. Long before it was legal and uncontroversial, Turner publicly verified the validity of women preaching and teaching in the church, going as far as ordaining the first woman deacon, Mrs. Sarah (Sallie) Ann Copeland Hughes. This caused a firestorm of dissent. Undeterred, Turner remained an outspoken advocate of women until his death in 1915.

» Scroll through the StoryMap below to view “Events in the Life of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner.”



Angell, Stephen W. Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and African-American Religion in the South. Knoxville: U Tennessee P, 1992.

Shelton-Lassiter, Patrice. Images of Black Life: Generations of Black Life in Kennesaw and Marietta, Georgia. Charleston: Arcadia, 1999.