|The Pastor's visit in 1896.|
Hmmm... This image is important to bear in mind.
I don't know your audience. I typically find deep probes into Negro history is more engrossing to white audiences. It is strange how that works in the context of these times and times past. But, this photograph speaks to a deep past important to understanding today. That being said my thoughts turn me backwards (Sankofa) to ponder the words of one of our living and deep spirits from the Civil Rights era, seldom mentioned today.
Ruby Sales is in town (Washington DC) as an honored guest for the opening of the African American museum. I have been reading an interview she did and within that interview is this insight:
"... Ms. Tippett: But you do make this really important distinction between black folk religion, which is what nourished you, which is what formed you, and the black church and black preachers, which are in the picture, but which is mostly what we’ve seen as the picture. And you say in one place that the heart of the Southern Freedom Movement, it wasn’t as much black preachers as it was black congregations, ordinary people, who participated in extraordinary things on this foundation that you’re describing.
Ms. Sales: Well, first of all, black folk religion grew up in the bush harbors on plantations. There were no buildings. There was not an institutionalized church.
Ms. Tippett: It was like outdoors in a sanctuary, trees, secret meetings. Right.
Ms. Sales: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. It was a gathering spot for the community. And it was in this setting that black people began to talk about God in this society where they were enslaved. And everybody participated. The spirituals came up out of this environment. And everyone had a voice in the conversation, so it was not as if the preacher’s voice was the most primary and most essential voice. It was participatory.
It was black folk religion. It was ordinary black people and not black preachers. Most black preachers stood over and against the movement. But it was really ordinary black people in the South who really forced the church to allow mass meetings and other places to meet there. And Martin Luther King should not be seen as the black church. He came out of black folk religion and was part of the Southern Freedom Movement...."
- Gregory E. Woods, Keeper of Stories