Members and associates of Holy Family Catholic Church in Natchez, the first African-American parish in Mississippi, played an integral role in the civil rights movement. A new book by Sojourners contributing writer and columnist Danny Duncan Collum contains their first-person stories of struggle and hope during the brutal Jim Crow era. Here, the words of Rev. Shead Baldwin, a Baptist minister and former president of the Natchez NAACP, which was housed at Holy Family Church:
In September 1963, I had a church get burned down. I started rebuilding that church in July 1964, and then I had another church where I preached get burned down. Along that time, George Metcalfe, who was president of the local NAACP, came to me, and he said, “Well, we going to get organized to combat some of the problems here.” At the time they were also calling our people out, especially an undertaker named Archie Curtis. The Klansmen called him out like somebody was sick, and he went out, and they got him and beat him up. We didn’t start any action about that. Later on, they got two more fellows; one of them was a butler at Kingston mansion. They took him out and beat him up.
We decided to start taking action. So we went to Nosser’s grocery store to try and integrate it. George Nosser was the mayor of Natchez at that time.