Church sanctuaries were meeting places during Albany Civil Rights Movement

Church sanctuaries were meeting places during Albany Civil Rights Movement

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The church was the one place people could gather, doors wide open.

Movement leaders would meet nightly, inspiring people of all ages to continue the fight for freedom, despite the threats and danger they were facing.

But not every church in Albany was able to keep the doors open.

In a time when doors were slammed in people’s faces, not to be opened for African Americans, there was one place welcoming people, doors and arms wide open.

“The church, Mount Zion and churches like it, were the lifeline of the movement.”

Mount Zion Baptist Church’s Pastor Daniel Simmons says the church in Albany was the one place you could go to feel safe and at home, no matter the color of your skin.

“Without the church offering a space and a place for the movement to meet, to disseminate information, to gather, to inspire the people, the movement would not have been as successful,” said Simmons.

But not every church was as fortunate to be able to keep their doors open. Faced with violence and threats of closure, staying open wasn’t always an option.

Senior Pastor Daniel Simmons. (Source: WALB)
Senior Pastor Daniel Simmons. (Source: WALB)

"There were churches that were called by banks that said if you allow a meeting to be held at your church, we will call for your mortgage. And take your church from you,” Simmons said.

Mount Zion was completely paid for, making the loud threats from banks and employers obsolete. But what did ring true for the people who gathered nightly in the sanctuary of wooden pews, was the promise of a better tomorrow. A tomorrow lead by people will love, not hate, in their hearts.

“A place where there was a language and a gospel that gave context to the movement and that made people believe in their heart it was right.”

Pastor Simmons said Mount Zion’s doors were open 55 years ago, and they aren’t closing any time soon.

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