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Pastor recalls civil rights struggles
Speaker at Mount Sinai teach-in
Emily H. Dupree of Ridgeway looks over a table of household items used during Martin Luther King Jr.’s era during a teach-in Monday at Mount Sinai Church in Martinsville. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)
A black Danville minister vividly remembers racism and violence he and his family encountered before segregation was banned in the 1960s.
Speaking to a large crowd at Mount Sinai Church in Martinsville at a Martin Luther King Teach-In on Monday, L.G. Campbell recalled attending a service at a Danville church where white residents worshiped. He said the pastor was “adamantly against integration.”
After the service, Campbell said, a deacon called him “the N word” and told him to never come back.
The pastor, having since changed his attitude toward black people, has apologized to him “numerous times,” Campbell said.
Campbell, pastor of Bible Way Cathedral in Danville for more than 50 years, participated in civil rights demonstrations in that city.
He recalled once being arrested after he sat in the whites-only section — instead of the section for blacks — while attending a court proceeding and refused to move.
During the arrest, Campbell said, a bailiff picked him up by the seat of his pants and “threw me down the steps.”
In 1963, participants in civil rights demonstrations in Danville were beaten by police. King, the late civil rights leader, came to the city and, during a speech at a local church, said it was the worst police brutality he had seen in the South, according to online sources.
Campbell said a family member still has back problems as a result of being beaten during a demonstration.
The minister spoke via an electronic video link during a teach-in at Mount Sinai to educate people about King’s efforts to promote civil rights. Monday was a federal holiday in honor of King.
King and Campbell had marched, dined and took part in Christian fellowship together. However, Campbell emphasized that he did not know King well. He considered King to be an acquaintance rather than a friend, he said.
Campbell noted that 2013 is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves, and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, D.C., when about 250,000 people peacefully rallied for civil rights and better economic conditions for blacks.
Although blacks and whites freely associate now, some people are racist in private, Campbell said.
Yet sometimes there still is racism in public. For instance, Campbell recalled having heard federal lawmakers and political commentators on television use words such as “inadequate” and “retarded” to describe President Obama.
Obama, the nation’s first black president and a graduate of Harvard Law School, was inaugurated for his second four-year term on Monday.
Campbell said people should become as well-educated as they can because it will help them achieve success. Education also can help a person not be prejudiced, he added.
“The quality of your preparations determines the quality of your performance” in life, he said.
Campbell mentioned that Hispanics have surpassed blacks as the second largest racial group in the United States.
The best way to promote King’s dream of equality for all people, regardless of their race, is to be kind, fair and respectful to everyone, he said.
Mount Sinai’s pastor, Bishop J.C. Richardson Jr., said Campbell has been one of his role models for many years.
“You’re one of our living legends,” he told Campbell.
Also during the teach-in, visitors and church leaders recalled how household technology has changed in recent decades.
A table at the front of the sanctuary was full of items used in the King era, including a a rotary dial phone, wooden devices used to beat dirt out of rugs, various kitchen devices and several Mahalia Jackson record albums.
Church member Mary Ann Mason recalled how irons made of cast iron had to be heated on top of a stove before they could be used.
Holding up washboards, Mason explained how clothes used to be cleaned by scrubbing them against the boards.
“When laundromats came to Martinsville, that was exciting” because it became easier to clean clothes, she said.
She recalled her mother drying clothes on an outdoor line. That was fine “until the birds came along” and pooped on the garments, she added.
Some teach-in attendees recalled washboards being used as simple musical instruments, such as in churches that could not afford proper instruments.
Mason tried to play one as Richardson and the congregation laughed.
“If you can’t do it right, don’t do it,” Richardson shouted, teasing her.
An audience member identified only as “Pastor Jeff” then tried to play a washboard. The audience seemed more pleased with his performance.