Church Rebuilt by Volunteers During Civil Rights Movement to Receive Marker
Jo-Carolyn Goode | 1/14/2015, 2:48 p.m.
BLUE MOUNTAIN, MISS.—January 14, 2015—The 1964 rebuilding of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, which was destroyed for hosting civil rights activities, will be commemorated with a marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail on Saturday, January 17, at 11 am. The unveiling will take place at 3651 County Road 700 in Blue Mountain. Several Oberlin alumni who took part in the church rebuilding will attend, and the event is open to the public.
The Mississippi Freedom Trail was launched in 2011 during the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders. Its mission is to commemorate the people and places of the Civil Rights era. The Carpenters for Christmas/Antioch Missionary Baptist Church is the 17th marker on the Trail, and it has been funded by Oberlin College alumni.
In October of 1964, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church was destroyed by fire after Fannie Lou Hamer led a Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party rally there. It was one of nearly 40 churches in Mississippi that were burned or bombed during a six-month period. Churches had played a key role in the Mississippi Freedom Summer, which challenged the state’s racial segregation and its exclusion of black citizens from voting. Civil rights activities—such as meetings, freedom election polling places, and Freedom Schools—often took place in these churches, which then became a target for segregationists.
A group of students and faculty from Oberlin College hoped to attract national media attention to the destruction of churches in the South, and they chose to rebuild Antioch Missionary Baptist Church to highlight the problem. Nearly two dozen Oberlin students and three faculty members traveled from Ohio to Blue Mountain, Miss., to rebuild the church with donated materials and volunteer labor. Calling themselves “Carpenters for Christmas,” they began construction on December 22. By Christmas Day, they had built a foundation and four walls, and the church’s pastor, the Rev. John R. McDonald, was able to lead a Christmas service in the new structure. By January 2 the building was operable again as a church and meeting place for civil rights activities. The Carpenters for Christmas project succeeded in attracting widespread national media attention and increasing awareness of the need to protect Southern churches who supported civil rights.
For information about the Mississippi Freedom Trail, visit http://visitmississippi.org/#civil-rights