I can remember hearing the faint sounds of tambourines as I walked hand-in-hand with my grandmother up to her small, 125-year-old church, Antioch First Born Holiness.
Found at the end of a long dirt road, the simple brick building had chipped red and white paint and showed its age everywhere I looked—the doors, the shutters, the steps, the sign out front. While we only attended this church when visiting Grammy Ethel, walking in always mirrored walking into our home church in Greenville. The smiles, the hugs, the familial warmth—it was a welcoming feeling I looked forward to and loved.
The church, and everything it represents, has long been a safe, consistent, sacred place in the African-American community. More than a building and weekly gathering spot, the church, for many, was and remains today, a home away from home. Or, even more intrinsic, a way of life.
From serving as meeting locations, grade schools, community centers and daycares, the church has long been interwoven into the fabric of the African-American experience. The church is an immovable, steadfast anchor that for so long has been the tangible stability many have needed when the world outside its walls was filled with hatred and hardships.
If asked of almost anyone in the African-American community in the South, “Tell me about your childhood?,” their time at church is bound to come up.
Sunday school lessons, colorful hats and immaculate clothes, church-league basketball, church picnics, church fans, bible drill, hand bells, choir, Christmas programs, revivals, baptisms, fellowship hall dinners…The church is and will continue to be the central lifeblood for African-American communities.
The Green Book of South Carolina
From the 1930s to the 1960s, Victor Green, a postal worker living in Harlem, NY, published a travel guide that highlighted places safe for African-Americans to visit by car. It included listings of hotels, restaurants and attractions that welcomed African-American tourists. Today, The Green Book of South Carolina is a mobile travel guide produced by the South Carolina African-American Heritage Commission, spotlighting more than 300 cultural sites across the state.
Among the historical sites, districts, cemeteries and schools mentioned in the Green Book, find details on more than 100 South Carolina churches. Discover congregations that date back centuries and welcome visitors today. Through the Green Book’s stories of heritage and perseverance, find the shared links that continue to connect communities.