Talk at First Baptist Ensley
Marjorie L. White
Sunday, August 19, 2007
At Birmingham Historical Society we work to
develop an understanding of and appreciation for Birmingham history,
particularly its landmarks.
It's been 50 years since First Baptist Ensley,
and other Birmingham churches and churchgoing pastors and members, played major
roles in the most important social movement of the 20th century: the civil
right movement of the 1950s and 1960s. . . the climax of which took place in the
churches and streets of Birmingham in the spring of 1963 when 4,000 folks stood
up for their rights winning rights for all.
People are beginning to recognize the role of
Birmingham ... and of its historic sites, many are now listed in the National
Register of Historic Places and Bethel and 16th Street Baptist Churches are
National Historic Landmarks and under consideration for World Heritage.
We have appreciated the opportunity to work with
members of First Baptist Ensley and the Village Creek Society to document First
Baptist Ensley' parsonage-the A. D. King House for listing on the National
Register of Historic Places.
It wasn't just Martin Luther King Jr. that
enthused 4,000 folks to go to jail for freedom, it was Fred Shuttlesworth and
his Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and his network of 60 churches
and churchgoing members that rallied the troops to fight the cause to "hasten
sincere brotherly love and undying peace . . . all over the world."
"Hasten sincere brotherly love" ...
these are the words a dynamic and eloquent preacher, a little known brother and
the pastor of First Baptist Church Ensley: the Rev. A. D. Williams King who with
his wife Naomi Barber King and their five young children came to pastor this
stronghold church for civil rights in December 1961.
There are no serious scholarly studies on A.D.
Williams King. Here's a bit I learned in researching the parsonage....
First Baptist Church of Ensley held 12 Mass
Meetings of the ACMHR . . . only St. James Baptist and New Pilgrim Baptist
hosted more recorded meetings... and 5 mass meetings took place here
during the spring 1963 campaign ... to prepare folks for the freedom fight.
Your pastor served on the Central Committee
that met each day to coordinate activities of the Birmingham Movement.
Your pastor led two now famous
marches: Palm Sunday April 7. Easter Sunday April 14.
Your pastor ... significant enough that
Connor put some water on him.
Your pastor . . . significant enough that
the Klan bombed his residence following the peace accord that ended the
marches May 10.
In December 1963, your pastor wrote to you:
"We as a race of down-trodden people were recipients of many good things last
year (1963) and, we witnessed many, many experiences that were not so
favorable.... At that time, he did not know that the U. S.
Congress would pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that next summer guaranteeing
equal access to public accommodations... nor would he live to see the impact of
that act upon the American democracy.
But even though he did not understand that
he helped win a great victory for mankind, your Pastor counseled you: we must work diligently toward a set goal for a better peoples here on earth and
in the world.
We live 50 years later. We can
know and tell the story. The story is that First Baptist Ensley, its pastors and
people, worked diligently for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s
... and they did help make America a better place for all peoples. I appreciate
the opportunity to join you today ... to help tell your story.
In conclusion, I quote your pastor ... the Rev.
A. D. Williams King ... as he addressed you in December 1963:
I pray God's blessing on you, and I
earnestly pray that God will richly bless each and every member of First Baptist
Church. May we move forward ... with a strong determination to put God first in
all that we do, to live in peace and harmony with mankind, and to strive toward
making First Baptist Church "God's Little Kingdom Here
Sources for this talk include: A Walk to
Freedom-The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human
Rights, National Register of Historic Places nomination for the First
Baptist Church Parsonage-A. D. King House (both authored by Marjorie L. White
for Birmingham Historical Society, in 1998 and 2007 respectively) and "A
Christmas Letter to the Members of First Baptist Church of Ensley," December
1963, by the Rev. A. D. Williams King, from the collection of Robert Holmes Sr.,
Birmingham, AL. Marjorie White is Director Birmingham Historical Society, One
Sloss Quarters, Birmingham, AL 35222, www.bhistorical.org