Boldness or Cowardice?

Perhaps you’ve heard of Prince Edward County. If so, chances are you think about it with horror. I do, even though I spent the eight happiest years of my childhood there.

As a young child, I didn’t know what was going on. Although my father was a fine Christian minister who taught me that  equality crossed all racial barriers, I didn’t have any black friends. In fact, I’m not sure I even knew any black people.

Not in Farmville, anyhow. My contacts with people of color were limited pretty much to Minnie and Lizzy. One was the cook for my paternal grandmother in Richmond. The other helped out my maternal grandmother in a small town in North Carolina.

Not until we’d moved away from Farmville during the mid-1950’s did I learn that my father had seen what was coming in Farmville and didn’t want to be any part of it. He knew his congregation would be on the wrong side of the issue. The highly prejudiced side that eventually led to the closing of the public schools and the creation of private schools for the white kids.

As horrible as it sounds, some black kids missed out on up to five years of their education before the county was forced to reopen the public schools in 1964.

I recall my parents telling me that Dickie Moss, the son of a local judge and someone I knew just slightly, was the only white kid to attend the public schools once they reopened.

But I know which side my father was on. If we’d remained in Farmville, I would’ve been the second white kid in public school.

We didn’t remain in Farmville, though. My father knew that the church wouldn’t tolerate his taking the stand he would’ve had to take. So finding a church elsewhere seemed like a better thing to do for his ministry and his family than being booted out for preaching and practicing Christian love.

Was his decision to leave an act of boldness or one of cowardice? I’ve never been able to decide. Probably more important is the question, “Would I have stayed or left if I’d been in his shoes?”

Although I’d like to believe I would’ve stayed and fought for what I knew was right, I honestly don’t know. It’s easy to make strong moral decisions from the safety of my living room fifty-some years later.

I’ve wanted to write this blog post for a number of months, but I wasn’t sure I could or should. My father has been dead since 1993, however, and I assume that most–if not all–of the people involved in the troubled times of the 1950s and 1960s are gone, too.

But if any of them are still alive, I pray that they have experienced a drastic change of heart.

What do you think? A comment would be welcome.


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Best regards,

2 thoughts on “Boldness or Cowardice?

  1. Thinking this over I would have to say your father was a very discreet man. Jesus, too, was a wise and discreet person. In his time Jesus had many opportunitites to take the plunge and make battle with his enemies ”but his time was not yet here…” When Peter took his sword and chopped off the ear of the slave of the high priest, Jesus commanded him to return his sword to his place. Then, Jesus not only healed the mans’ ear but explained that, if he wanted to, he could appeal to God for 12 legions of angels. However, there were other, more important matters at hand.

    Racism is an evil that pervades our society. It is not something that has a simple cure. Despite all the so-called advances blacks have made socially there still existed deep-rooted, hateful bigotry in America. I think your dad must have recognized this fact. Instead of throwing caution to the wind and taking an inevitably futile stand that may have won a few honest-hearted people to his side but eventually would have led to his dismissal, he simply went to where there was less of a problem.

    Furthermore, his ministry was not to right social wrongs in the United States. Maybe his role was pastor of a group of sheep who needed him and whom he helped (although you may not have been aware of it at the time).

    So, your question of cowardness or boldness is misbegotten. Maybe you could have asked if he was discreet or foolhardy. Of this question, of course, the answer would be much easier to determine.


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