Vanguards of a Missionary Uprising
Part II: B reaking Silence
Balance Two Historical Viewpoints
A Vanguard Understands the Background
In one of his books, W. E. B. Dubois offers to bring white readers on a journey through
Georgia‘s impoverished ?Black Belt? after the Civil War.1 Loving history, I decided to go along
with him, if only through my imagination. Perhaps I would discover what he intended for white
people to know. Obviously, Dubois wanted us to discover something in his writings. Intrigued
by his book‘s title, The Souls of Black Folk, I wondered what kind of insights he might reveal, so
I took up his offer. Traveling this train with Dubois, by way of the thoughtful words that he
wrote generations ago, suited me fine. I appreciated his contributions to the historical context of
my ministry. He created a platform for my challenges to you as we ?get ready? for Christ‘s train
?a-coming? where ?you don‘t need no ticket to get on board.?
Always the tactful host in his book, Dubois warned that if I dare go with him, I must ride
willingly in the train‘s racially segregated Jim Crow rail car. He made sure I knew that he hated
being treated like a second-class citizen, but he had no other choice of rail cars.
As if to alleviate any fear or hesitation, Dubois assured that whites travel comfortably and
often in these segregated seats. He emphasized that no one would object to my passage in a Jim
Crow car because the races mixed there. He said, in fact, that four white men sat there already.
To reiterate his point about my safety in the Jim Crow car, Dubois showed a young white girl
and her nurse who rode among us. In other words, I could feel confident that no African
American meant harm, since a white woman and young girl felt comfortable among them.
Normally, I would want to be careful when coming around racist white people. I know from
my own experiences that many racist whites hated other whites who ?mingled? with African
Americans or who helped them stand up for their rights.
Actually, I already knew about race- mixing in Jim Crow train cars. My mother told me
about her experience riding in a segregated rail car when Grandmother brought her back from
Africa. They arrived in New York on a freighter and traveled by train to South Carolina. Mom
recalled how their rail car carried white and black passengers until it stopped at Washington,
D.C. From there to South Carolina, the train company enforced segregation. Grandmother and
Mom continued south in the 1945 version of a Jim Crow car.
Somewhat like the little white girl in Dubois‘s Jim Crow rail car, at age 12 my mother rode
in one with my widowed grandmother. Impoverished for the Gospel‘s sake, they lacked the
luxury of taking a nurse along like the little girl on Dubois‘s train. Also, overcrowding took all
the seats in my grandmother‘s case and forced her to sit on her suitcase the entire way.
Picture a widowed mother sitting on her suitcase with her daughter in a crowded Jim Crow
rail car. She mingled with African Americans as she traveled into the segregated South to leave
behind this youngest child at a boarding school. She did all of this in order to return to Africa