Turnbow stepped right up and said “Me, Hartman Turnbow. I came here to die to vote. I’m the first.” Since that moment he became a leader in his community.
Voting rights activist Sue Lorenzi described his oration: “His huge energy dominated. He spoke in unusual turns of phrase that we would soon call Turnbowisms. . . His words flowed rapidly with lilting energy. They tumbled from his mouth, often indecipherable to my inexperienced ears.”
During Freedom Summer, he offered these words to his fellow black Mississippians to persuade them to register to vote:
That lynching I was tellin you about — that one with the burning with the ‘cetylene torch—that ‘n was a turning point. It just . . . made a Negro mad, got to thinking he’d rather die anyway but to be all burnt up with a torch while he’s still living. But this now, this is something that we is in together. We was all together trying to do something. . . The Negro ain’t gonna stand fo all that beating and lynching and bombing and stuff. They found out when they tried to stop us from redishing [a Turnbowism for registering] that every time they bombed or shot or beat or cut credit . . . it . . . just made him angry and more determined to keep on . . . and get redished.