Growing Up in America’s Segregated South

Anxious Bench | 7/3/2019 | Staff
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I’m very pleased to welcome Mark Elliott to the Anxious Bench. Elliott has taught modern European and Russian history at Asbury College, Wheaton College, and Samford University. He was the founding editor of the East-West Church and Ministry Report (1993-2017). He was also my Russian history professor at Wheaton College and has been my friend and mentor in Kentucky as I’ve begun my teaching career.

In the early 1960s, when I was growing up in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, racial conflict was a fact of life in my church. In those years, Black families were moving in to neighborhoods closer and closer to my church, Pattillo Memorial Methodist. This precipitated “White flight” to Stone Mountain and other distant suburbs east of Atlanta. In moving east, Whites came closer to the massive carving on Stone Mountain honoring Confederate heroes Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson, the largest relief sculpture in the world. Stone Mountain, cited in Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, was a favorite site for Ku Klux Klan rallies, one of which, out of curiosity, my teenage friends and I attempted to observe, only to be prevented by a police roadblock. Looking back, I am grateful I was prevented from attending.

Black - Families - Children - White - Families

Black families often had more children than the White families they replaced near my church, which put pressure on local schools. The city of Decatur approached Pattillo Memorial Methodist with a request to rent the Sunday school building for temporary classroom space. With so many church families moving away, our congregation certainly could have used the rental income. I clearly recall my father coming home one evening from a church board meeting very upset. He had urged the rental of the Sunday school building but was outvoted by congregants who could not...
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