Jackson Street MBC gets its due

Published 7:41 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Amid the reports of crime and children being charged as adults for shooting people, there was something beautiful Saturday.

Jackson Street M.B. Church, which has been an icon and symbol of faith in the community for 130 years, was honored with a state plaque honoring its designation as a national historic landmark and its listing on the National Register of Historic places.

Organized in April 1888 by the Rev. A.A. Hamilton and 75 people at the Golden Rule Hall, a masonic lodge at Clay and Locust streets, the church grew to be an important influence in the African American Community.

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The church at the corner of Jackson Street and Second North Street was designed by E. J. Allen, an African American from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who also oversaw its construction.

“African Americans not only designed the church; it was built by African Americans,” longtime church member Shirley Harris said.

The church, she added, served as the backdrop for the funeral service from the film “Mississippi Burning,” which was filmed in front of the church and in the sanctuary.

“The first vacation Bible school for African American communities was held at the church. Jackson Street had the first women’s day program and there was a Head Start held at the church,” she said.

“Jackson Street had a model Sunday school, Baptist young people’s union, a benevolent society and block carnivals for youth.”

But the church’s firsts and its activities in the community were not reason the church received its designation to the National Register. It was the work of many people, especially the church members, who did the legwork and research resulting in the narrative about Jackson Street’s history and unique architecture that led to its designation, and for that, they should be congratulated.

African American history is a part of our nation’s story that has not received the attention it should receive, and it’s only now that it is becoming to get serious consideration.

True, it has been around for a long time, and it has been taught for decades, but it stayed in the shadows for a long time. When I was in college in the late 60s and early 70s in the south, courses in what was then called black history were just starting to show up in college catalogue. In the history courses I took most of the emphasis was on slavery, with some mention of George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass and Dred Scott. A history course on the 1920s that I took in college presented some information about Marcus Garvey.

It’s only now that I’m learning more through conversations with people and events like that at Jackson Street M.B. Church.

Jackson Street pastor the Rev. Trollers Moore called the ceremony “the day that we stand on the shoulders of those giants who helped mold and shaped this church into what it is today.”

And in its own way, the church helped shape Vicksburg. It’s a history we all need to learn.

John Surratt is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com. Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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