The Official History of
Jerusalem Baptist Church was founded shortly
after the end of Civil War, a few years after 1865. The church
moved from one half mile northwest 133 years ago to its present
location at the juncture of what was called Reese Town Road and
the Sansee Swamp Road. The Reverend William Bassett (buried in
the cemetery at Hassidiah Baptist) was Jerusalem's first pastor
and one of the pioneers in the settlement of the area. Frank
Jackson, Stith Parham, Daniel Robinson, and Charles Tyler served
as the first Board of Deacons, the fathers of the church and
leaders of the growing free-slave population. The congregation
was trained in faith and service and encouraged in the
acquisition of education and land.
The Bethany Baptist Association convened with the Jerusalem
Baptist Church under the leadership of its second pastor,
Reverend E.E. Royal. Brother C.P. Parham was elected secretary
and was later succeeded by brother Nick Hill.
Brother Robert Taylor served as secretary from 1897-1902
under the leadership of our the third pastor, Reverend C.C.
Brother Richard Mason served as secretary in 1902 under the
leadership of the fourth pastor, Reverend M.P. Sweat.
The fifth pastor was Reverend W.H. Wiggins who served for 18
years. Jerusalem underwent its first improvement. The wood
shingles were torn off and replaced with galvanized shingles. A
pastor's study was built onto the rear of the church.
Reverend I.H. Ruffin was the sixth pastor. He pastored for a
very short time and Brother V.N. Mason served as secretary.
(photo left) Reverend G.A.
Ruffin appears in rear right
The seventh pastor was the well-known and the well-liked
Reverend General A. Ruffin who pastored from 1939-1959. Under
the leadership of Reverend Ruffin, Jerusalem made great
improvements and advancements. Brother Joe Stith served as
secretary and held this position until his passing in 1956.
Sister Florence Wyche Stith was elected secretary and served on
this capacity for 45 years.
In 1960, Reverend John Mason Boone was chosen as the eighth
pastor. under his leadership, the following improvements were
made in the church building:
-- The church was brick veneered, cornerstone laid, rooms added
to the rear of the church and bathrooms installed.
-- Interior painted.
-- New pews installed and floor painted.
-- Floors carpeted.
-- Repairs remained moderate.
-- Water fountain and oil heating system were installed.
Electric organ and furniture for the pastor's study were
-- Paneled walls, lowered ceiling and placed awning over side
doors. Made plans for an inside pool and dining room.
In 1965 Jerusalem sponsored Boy Scout Troop #468 and a Girl
Scout in 1974. Samuel Rivers, Jr. was honored as an Eagle Scout
ceremony in 1974. He was the first black person to receive this
honor from the Western District. Deacon Peter Ford was the Scout
Jerusalem Baptist Church completed its lifetime membership in
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP). Bi-annual contributions have been made to the Virginia
Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia and the Baptist Children Home in
Ettrick, VA. Jerusalem is in good standing with the Bethany
Baptist Association, Eastern Shore.
The Junior Choir and Junior Usher Board was reorganized. A
deaconess group, Sick Committee, Communion Set-up Committee, and
a Mother's Board was organized.
Reverend Ellis became the next pastor and pastored at
Jerusalem for two years.
In 1994, Reverend Joseph A. Simmons, Sr. became the
pastor-elect and in 1995 he was installed as pastor. Under his
leadership, Jerusalem service moved from 11:30 am to 11 am. A
telephone was installed for emergencies and other needs. Pastor
Ellis began a Bible study class 10:30 am and began at 7 pm.
Jerusalem has continued to flourish under the leadership of
Pastor Simmons. From 1995 to present, we have added four new
ministries: Pastor's Aid Ministry, Nurse's Ministry, Women and
Men's Ministry. Two new deacons to the Deacon Ministry and a
Financial Training conducted to teach us a new way of handling
Jerusalem has seen a lot of changes over 133 years. . . .
Jerusalem will continue to grow.
"Even so faith if it hath not works, is dead, being
alone." James 2:17
* * *
Jerusalem Baptist builds new home after 137
By Teresa Welsh
[Webmaster note: Above, the
congregation seems to be making a prayerful goodbye to Old
Jerusalem and assembling to make their walk to the newly built
January 14 was a special
day in Jarratt. Not because it was such a beautiful warm
morning, with the birds chirping as the gentle breeze rustled
through the treetops.
But because it was a new day dawning for members of Jerusalem
10:30 a.m. several dozen parishioners gathered in front of the
old church on Owen Road.
The Rev. Joseph A. Simmons Sr. led the large group in prayer,
thanking God for the church’s past home and for the future home
that awaited them.
They held hands and sang, “The Road to Zion” as they walked
about a half-mile to their new house on worship on Kientz Road.
Children’s laughter filled the air as they began their short
Sussex deputy Raymond Bell directed traffic in front of the
church as the large group came around the curve into the home
Jerry Taylor’s Royal blue suit was rustling. He sprinted to the
church entrance as everyone marveled at his stamina.
As the others joined him the church bells began to chime.
As more than 100 people filed into the beautiful, new church
with its Royal blue carpeting they were greeted by Deacon Jasper
Lewis, who had a big smile on his face.
Rev. Simmons, with the help of Rev. Joseph Williams on the
keyboard and Royal Turner on the drums, led the group in a song
as people of all ages looked for a seat.
“This is a new day for Jerusalem Baptist Church Ministries,”
said Rev. Simmons.
“We are here. That speaks volumes. Welcome to the new site of
Jerusalem Baptist Church of Jarratt. Praise God.”
The crowd stood, Bibles in hand, as the Jerusalem Baptist Church
Choir, dressed in blue and white robes, entered the doors and
walked to the pulpit singing praises unto God.
Later that afternoon a formal dedication ceremony was held.
Jerusalem Baptist Church was founded around 1870, a few years
after the end of the Civil War.
The church’s former home for the past 137 years was on Owen
Road, one-half mile northwest of its new location on Kientz Road
at the juncture of what was called Reese Town Road and Sansee
The church’s first pastor was the Rev. William Bassett, one of
the pioneers in the settlement of the area.
The first board of deacons Frank Jackson, Stith Parham, Daniel
Robinson and Charles Tyler were also the fathers of the church
and leaders of the growing free-slave population in Jarratt.
According to the church’s history, which was compile primarily
by the late Virginia Rivers, the congregation was trained in
faith and service and encouraged in the acquisition of education
and land. . . .
“Jerusalem Baptist has seen a lot of
changes over 137 years,” said member Queen Mitchell. “Jerusalem
will continue to grow.”
* * * *
always filled with wonder what extraordinary things that a few
people can do with few resources and great dreams, especially
atop the great work achieved by previous generations. This new
church edifice is reported to have cost three-quarters of a
million dollars. I'm uncertain of the membership of this local
church, but certainly it's less than 200 (for that's about the
number it will seat), maybe they have 75 active members.
Probably most of these are near or above 60 years and few of
them are professional men and women.
photos, I have seen
the new edifice only from the outside, for it's been sometime since I
stepped across the portal of a church. I'm still rather attached
to the old building, its foundations laid by formers slaves and
the sons and daughters of former slaves. It was there in the old
church I first got religion. Though the Old Jerusalem cost much
less even going through numerous additions and modifications, in
my eyes it remains much grander in stature: it soars farther up
into the heavens, than it's more modern replacement . . .
But the new always
replaces the old whether it has more value or not, it seems. In
the new edifice family names (for those who could afford it)
have been inscribed into the windows. And rooms have been
dedicated to the dead. These southern Virginia people are a very
resourceful and proud people. They are anxious to get into the
21st century and leave the slave past behind. I am sure they
will find ingenious means of meeting the monthly note. We pray a
grander spirit will fill this new edifice, a spirit of true
One may note the image behind Reverend
Simmons (above). You would think that the black consciousness
movement has by-passed the saints of Jerusalem. One reader has
already taken note:
pieces. One photo particularly grabbed my attention--that pastor
standing at the pulpit with the stained glass window behind
him--depicting a praying white Jesus with flowing hair.
Have you seen the teen-produced documentary, "A Girl Like Me"?
It shows another generation of young black children selecting
white dolls, as the "good doll"—a reprise of the Kenneth Clark
Of course, there are no apologies for this
kind of behavior in a black Baptist
church in 2007.
In the old Jerusalem (when
I was a kid) there were no images on the walls, at all. With
these later generations they started putting images on the
walls, of a white Jesus. Once I threatened to pull them down.
But my aunt became upset. I made sure that I scanned the white
Jesus and included it in my expose of the new Jerusalem. . . .
Yes, I discussed this
psycho-social racial programming with a couple of the members.
And told them about the
Black Doll Video and the 1954 Brown case. But it seems
democracy (and maybe good sense) has left this black Baptist
church and the spirits of the ancestors have long since
departed. What is worse there is no shame in any of this, no
racial self consciousness. It's as if the 60s and 70s never
happened. I'm happy to say that not every person in the
congregation is so mentally situated.
As of yet no member has had
the courage to stand up and say, "Take those abominations down
from our walls!!!"
It's almost certain that the local
contractor feels quite blessed by this new backsliding black
Baptist leadership -- Rudy
posted 18 February 2003
Mockingbirds at Jerusalem
* * *
* * *
The Persistence of the Color Line
Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency
By Randall Kennedy
Among the best things about
The Persistence of the Color Line
is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the
positions about Mr. Obama staked out by
black commentators on the left and
right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel
West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley.
He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr.
Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism
regarding whether blacks should back
Obama” . . .
finest chapter in
The Persistence of the Color Line
is so resonant, and so personal, it
could nearly be the basis for a book of
its own. That chapter is titled
“Reverend Wright and My Father:
Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”
Recalling some of the criticisms of
America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s
former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with
feeling about his own father, who put
each of his three of his children
through Princeton but who “never forgave
American society for its racist
mistreatment of him and those whom he
His father distrusted the police, who had frequently
called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s
father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong
had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his
father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.
* * * * *
Salvage the Bones
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.
She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
* * * * *
Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of
By John D'Emilio
Bayard Rustin is one of the most
important figures in the history of
the American civil rights movement.
Before Martin Luther King, before
Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin was working
to bring the cause to the forefront
of America's consciousness. A
teacher to King, an international
apostle of peace, and the organizer
of the famous 1963 March on
Washington, he brought Gandhi's
philosophy of nonviolence to America
and helped launch the civil rights
movement. Nonetheless, Rustin has
been largely erased by history, in
part because he was an African
American homosexual. Acclaimed
historian John D'Emilio tells the
full and remarkable story of
Rustin's intertwined lives: his
pioneering and public person and his
oblique and stigmatized private
It was in the tumultuous 1930s that
Bayard Rustin came of age, getting
his first lessons in politics
through the Communist Party and the
unrest of the Great Depression.
A Quaker and a radical pacifist, he went to
prison for refusing to serve in World War II, only
to suffer a sexual scandal. His mentor, the great
pacifist A. J. Muste, wrote to
him, "You were capable of making the
'mistake' of thinking that you could
be the leader in a revolution...at
the same time that you were a
weakling in an extreme degree and
engaged in practices for which there
was no justification."
* * * * *
Laying Down the Sword
Why We Can't Ignore the Bible's Violent
Commands to kill, to commit ethnic
cleansing, to institutionalize segregation,
to hate and fear other races and
religions—all are in the Bible, and all
occur with a far greater frequency than in
the Qur’an. But fanaticism is no more
hard-wired in Christianity than it is in
Laying Down the Sword, “one of
America’s best scholars of religion” (The
Economist) explores how religions grow
past their bloody origins, and delivers a
fearless examination of the most violent
verses of the Bible and an urgent call to
read them anew in pursuit of a richer, more
genuine faith. Christians cannot engage with
neighbors and critics of other
traditions—nor enjoy the deepest, most
mature embodiment of their own faith—until
they confront the texts of terror in their
heritage. Philip Jenkins identifies the
“holy amnesia” that, while allowing
scriptural religions to grow and adapt, has
demanded a nearly wholesale suppression of
the Bible’s most aggressive passages,
leaving them dangerously dormant for
extremists to revive in times of conflict.
* * *
By Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie
Somebody has to tell the truth sometime, whatever that truth may be. In this, her début full collection, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie offers up a body of work that bears its scars proudly, firm in the knowledge that each is evidence of a wound survived. These are songs of life in all its violent difficulty and beauty; songs of fury, songs of love. 'Karma's Footsteps' brims with things that must be said and turns the volume up, loud, giving silence its last rites. "Ekere Tallie's new work 'Karma's Footsteps' is as fierce with fight songs as it is with love songs. Searing with truths from the modern day world she is unafraid of the twelve foot waves that such honesties always manifest. A poet who "refuses to tiptoe" she enters and exits the page sometimes with short concise imagery, sometimes in the arms of delicate memoir. Her words pull the forgotten among us back into the lightning of our eyes.—Nikky Finney /
Ekere Tallie Table
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
3 April 2012