David’s new book, Sewing Circles, Dime Suppers, and W.E.B. Du Bois: A History of the Clinton AME Zion Church, was launched on Saturday at the church’s 136th anniversary. Last year the church celebrated its 124th anniversary, and the leap in years was the result of David’s research. Apparently it could gain another two years if something other fact David’s unearthed turns out to be true, so that 140th anniversary gets closer and closer.
The book is the moving story of a small, brave community inspired by mutual commitment and by a great love of God. Pastor Esther Dozier is an amazing leader and someone whose faith is palpable. I think she must have liked the way David closed his talk, by reading part of a statement written at the annual meeting of the Sunday Schools Convention of the AME Zion New England Conference, held at the church in Great Barrington in September 1895:
The committee on the state of the nation issued a report expressing grave concern about the treatment of Black people and about lynching. There were nearly 5,000 lynchings in the United States from 1882 to 1968. About 80 percent took place in the South, and 73 percent of those lynched were Black. Whites who were lynched were typically accused of helping Blacks or of opposing lynching. The committee noted:
Although there is reported to be a revival of industry throughout the land, and this year’s grain crop is tremendous in its proportions, the condition of the Negro citizen in this nation continues to be one of anxious solitude. The deplorable spirit of lawlessness, as manifested in lynchings, seems no longer to continue itself within its former well understood limits, but, while still controlling action in its old familiar haunts, is spreading itself over the land, entering even that splendid commonwealth, which gave to our nation the immortal president, Abraham Lincoln. What we need in this critical condition of public affairs is just what we needed in the dark days of slavery—men to “stand on the wall.” As did Garrison, Phillips, Sumner and Douglas, hurling their thunderbolts at the citadel of injustice, and swaying the rulers and people of the American nation into a recognition and practice of the principles of the constitution of the United States. God’s blessing cannot long continue with a nation whose people are indifferent to, or careless of the claims of justice to each and all of its citizens. The future of our country depends upon our activity along the lines laid down in the great command, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; and thy neighbor as thyself.”
That’s where he stopped, and there were tears in his eyes.