April 7th, 1968:
“You can’t have it here,” the man snapped at my father as we walked toward his study at the church on Sunday morning. “This is our church, and you cannot have it here. This ain’t your church, Vernon, this is our church. And I am telling you right now, you ain’t having no Martin Luther King service in our church…You can’t have a church full of niggers in here. This is our church.”
“The last time I checked, it was God’s church,” my father replied. “I think it probably still is….But we’re all Methodists here, and part of that is having methods, you might say, for doing certain things….the pastor of the church can determine the number and nature of the services held in the sanctuary. And for the moment, at least, I believe I am still the pastor of this church….And here’s the bishop’s phone number. If he says I am not the pastor of this church, I can’t do it. Otherwise, I plan to proceed.”
Eli Regan [one of the senior men in the church] shuffled around to the front of Daddy’s desk, stepping in front of the man who had been speaking…. “Well, Preacher,” he said, “I have two things two say about all this. The first thing is that I believe in my heart that Martin Luther King is the worst enemy that America has had in my lifetime–the very worst. You don’t think so, but that’s what I think, and I think most of these men agree with me.” There were nods of assent all around the small room. “And the second thing I want to tell you,” Regan continued, “is that if anybody in this room knocks you down, Preacher, I’m gonna pick you back up again. You’re still my preacher.”
–Timothy Tyson, Blood Done Sign My Name
Timothy Tyson was there. As a preacher’s kid in Oxford, North Carolina, in the 1960s and ’70s, he knows how it was. As a prize-winning historian and scholar, he’s done his homework and knows the facts. And as a writer–dear Lord! Tyson knows how to spin a yarn that can tell the truth. Because, as he reminds us, “If there is to be reconciliation, first there must be truth.”
Get his book.Get a group of friends to read it with you, or make some new friends who will. Then come back here in a month, and let’s read–and learn–together.