The Faith of African Americans in the 60s

In honor of Black History month, I saw it fitting to get back into Freedom Summer, a book about the 1964 summer movement to get blacks registered to vote and children educated in Mississippi. It is an awakening and thought provoking book that allows the reader to see the events as though they were watching it happen first hand. The following passage stood out to me and I’d like to share it with you:

While whites talked – or refused to talk – blacks in Philadelphia opened up to the press. Mrs. Junior Cole told the New York Times how a white mob had gathered outside Mt. Zion Church on the evening before it burned. The elderly woman trembled as she described emerging from a church meeting with her husband. Suddenly, a man with a gun stepped in front of their car. Seconds later, the road was filled with white men, rifles across their chest. One shone a flashlight in Junior Cole’s face, asking about the church meeting. When Cole replied that it was just a routine gathering, the white man barked, “You a damn liar. You having an N-double-A-CP meeting out here, ain’t you?” Yanking the old man out of the car, the mob pummeled him to the ground, thrashing and kicking. Mrs. Cole dropped to her knees in the gravel.

“Lord, don’t let them kill my husband.”

“If you think prayer will do any good, you’d better pray.”

As fist and a pistol butt thudded in the darkness, Mrs. Cole lifted up both arms to heaven. “Father, I stretch my hands to Thee,” she said. “No other help I know.” The words seemed to calm the men. Leaving Junior Cole in heap on the ground, they got into cars and pickups and drove off. A few hours late, an orange glow lit the night sky from off toward the church. (Freedom Summer, p107-108)

Wow, right? Sadly, as I was reading this for the first time, I was not expecting for the men to stop beating Mr. Cole. (Which now, I am questioning myself as to why wouldn’t they? She prayed right?) My immediate thoughts, instead, went to the apparent authority that whites developed, in their mind, to think it was okay to beat a human being almost to the point of death, and at times until death.

However, what I want to highlight about this passage more so is Mrs. Coles’ actions and the almightiness of God in any situation. She was a woman, similar to Ms. Clara from the movie War Room, who understood prayer and the authority she possessed as a child of God because of it. I think that we can all learn the lesson that in any situation, our Father in heaven is who we should call on. I’m challenging myself to have the same reaction as Mrs. Cole in times of distress and times of prosperity for the word states that we should “pray without ceasing”. I impose the same challenge on you.

taste and see,

Scripture to check out:

Psalm 143:6
Isaiah 45:5
1 Thessalonians 5:17

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