African-American church in Clinton celebrates 150 years, reflects on racial climate

African-American church in Clinton celebrates 150 years, reflects on racial climate

CLINTON, Miss. (WLBT) - An African-American Clinton church will mark a century and a half in existence this weekend.

In its infancy, blacks and whites worshiped together prior to reconstruction. Members mark this milestone, sharing their thoughts on their history, today’s racial climate and the state flag.

Eighty-seven-year-old Alice Jordan has seen change in the racial climate over 79 years from the pews of Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church in Clinton.

“I can see growth in our community. I can see growth in our church,” she said as the church prepares for its 150th birthday.

Church historians say it was founded by First Baptist Church on the Mississippi College campus where masters and their slaves attended in 1852.

“What I thought was ironic that was 13 years before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation that the City of Clinton had a church congregation that was integrated,” said 67-year member Glenn Wilkerson.

The church started with an all black congregation in 1870 at its current site on East College Street. After reconstruction, the races no longer worshiped together on Sundays - much like today.

"It's the most segregated day of the week and 11 o'clock is probably the most segregated hour," added Wilkerson.

Shirley Miller has been a member for 67 years. ”We’ve had whites to come worship with us,” she said.

Miller is among the members who believe there should be improved race relations and a new state flag.

“We want to be happy too. Yeah, you say this was history, but we are history too,” added Miller. “We do not want to be made to feel like we’re not a part of America.”

Member Deborah Bradford researched the history of First Baptist, founded in 1852 and Pleasant Green.

She learned blacks were more likely allowed to attend First Baptist because they lived on their master’s plantations. Services for black members were moved to the Mississippi College where they were instructed by white chaplains.

Services for African-Americans were also held on Robertson Field in Clinton and later land was donated for Pleasant Green’s current site on East College Street.

The races were and, for the most part, remain divided worshipping one God.

“The changes that are taking place now are because of unrest,” said Bradford. “People are tired of the same old same old, the same thing that happened in the 50′s and 60′s.”

One-hundred-and-fifty years after the church was founded, the 300 member congregation will conduct virtual celebratory services Sunday, June 28 because of COVID-19.

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