... REMINISCING ABOUT THE AFRICAN
say, way above anything else, [religion]
has shown me a lot. I've learned a lot.
I've seen that you give and you will
constantly get back more than you give.
You give more, you get back more. You
put in your labor and you are dog-tired
when you finish the job, but you then
look at the job that you have
accomplished and you're not that tired
anymore. And, we have some good people.
We have good people at Bethesda [United
Methodist Church] and it's more like a
family than a congregation, as far as
I'm concerned. I mean, everybody knows
everybody. We, at times, spend almost as
much time out in the yard talking after
service as we do during the service.
It's just, people don't seem to want to
go home. They just like to talk to each
other, and I enjoy that. . . .
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Louise Swales Holland (1932 - )
St. Aloysius's Church and I, say, I am
of the Catholic faith. However, I have
reservations about what happens in the
Catholic church. It's just difficult.
The ritualistic part is, as far as I'm
concerned, okay. In my life, there has
always been a barrier. What I believe in
is something other than [what] people
have control and guidance. What that is,
who that is or how it is, I have a
little bit of a problem formulating
that, but I don't see any other
religious organization offering any
more, you know. None of that has altered
what I believe. So, I attend the
that's what you want to call it--God,
Yaweh, Allah, Jesus: whatever name you
want to apply to a Supreme Being,
whatever. There has to be something. I
don't think those of us who are here
now, or even people who went before us,
were capable of what is here. So as far
as I'm concerned, there has to be some
Supreme Being - someone, something other
than us. Humans are, or in the form we
exist here on this planet, we're just
too incomplete. We aren't wise enough.
We're not compassionate enough. We're
aren't a lot of things enough to say
that we are the end, or what we feel is
the infinite. It just doesn't happen.
So, there has to be some other.
not saying that it's all for good or
it's all for bad or it's all evened out
in the long run, however it comes out,
but there is something other than humans
who is, who guides what goes on. . . .
It was a
segregated church. In fact, one of my
aunt's bitterest memories is the fact
that they tried to have Black alter boys
when her son was growing up, and they
wouldn't allow it. Took the robes that
he wore. Took those off. The minister, I
mean the parishioners would not
receive-and that was during the time
when they held a little plate under your
mouth to give you communion. You went to
the rail. The parishioners wouldn't
accept communion from him. So, wouldn't
accept him just to hold the plate.
Wasn't communion. The priest gave
communion, but just to hold the plate.
[back to top of
Gaskin (1951 - )
up, we had a very involved church life.
Not only with our church there, but with
the other churches in what was called a
parish at the time. There were five
churches in our parish and we had one
minister who serviced all five churches.
And, we were very involved in what
happened in the church life for all of
those five parishes. That system doesn't
exist anymore. . . .
Smith Gaskin (1919 - 1998)
attend Zion United Methodist Church, and
religion plays a major part of my life.
. . . Without the Lord in my life, I
don't know what would happen. I don't
know what would have happened when I
lost--when my husband died in '73 with a
daughter still in college. Bernadette
wanted to stop school and go to work,
and I said, "No, because the Lord was
going to--He would make a way for us." .
V. Milburn Hall (1927 - )
every Sunday, we go to church. So, you
could go one--no, five, four seats from
the front, anywhere after that you could
sit. And then, one Sunday, they had a
rope. They had a little yellow rope come
all the way across, and I didn't, you
know, I didn't know. I said,--.
Bea, you know, she was saying, "No,
Emma. Come back. Come back. Come back
Come on. Come on. Come back. Sit back
got out of church and she said, "No.
That's for the White people."
"Well, okay. Well," I said, "I don't
have to go back there no more in that
church. If that's for the White people,
that's their church. Then, why you all
going there? What don't you all go,
whatyoucall'em?" I said, "I should have
stayed Methodist." I said, "Because we
had our own church."
"No, but that don't make no difference."
She said, "Just sit. Sit. Sit."
sat. And so, next, whatyoucall'em,
Sunday, go back. Same thing--we sat and
I just kept going.
daughter, Glenda, Glenda, yeah. I guess
she was about 12. Yeah, she was about 12
years old. So, we go to the church and
she said, "Mamma." She said, "That's not
fair. Why can't we sit in church
anywhere we want to?"
"Well, you know, they say you can't sit
went on in church. She didn't come in
right [away]--[I] turned around and
looked for her. [chuckle] She sat up in
the front seat!
whatyacall'em said, my sister-in-law
said to me, she said, "Emma, that's
something you would have done."
"Yeah. I would have done that." I said,
"I would have done that."
didn't want her--I didn't want her to
see that I would, you know. She wouldn't
I say, "I
would have probably done that!"
something I would have done. And, she
sat there and she sat there and they
come in and got behind her.
"Momma, you know what?"
wouldn't turn around 'cause I know you
had your eye on my the whole time!" And,
indeed I did! ...
Sunday she went. And then, her other
sisters started sitting there. They went
on. . . . I guess must have been in the
60's. Somebody moved that string. I
don't know who took it down, but maybe
the priest did.
Smith Gaskin (1919 - 1998)
segregation was--it was really tough. It
was. It was, and the fact that it went
from the churches where it shouldn't
have been. I went to a funeral at a
Catholic church and my grandmother
always-Well, we were made to, I guess,
cause if I could have, I would have sat
in the back, but she made us come up
front. We could not turn around in
church. You know, if the door opened, we
focused on what was in front of us and
what was going on in front of us. When
they came to the-Well, I didn't have any
better sense, I walked on up front in
church and I sat down. And, they just
kept looking at me. "Where is this
animal come from? Where is she going?
What is she doing there?" And, a nun,
when we went to give the peace offering,
I put out my hand, she would not take
it. She was a nun. She would not take
it. . . .
Alexander Forrest (1911 - 2009)
church we were forced to sit behind. You
see that was frustrating. You look at
that thing you say, "Look now here's an
institution that's trying to follow
Christian philosophy and you've got two
sets of people in there - one Black and
one White. Same church, same structure.
But yet that one that's Black is not
given the privilege to sit where he
wants to. He's relegated to the back.
you analyze that and you say, "Look
there's got to be something wrong here.
If this is a Christian community,
looking at Christian philosophy or
Christian teaching, All Men are Created
Equal, God-like, or whatever term you
want to use, and yet in your house where
you are the leader--. And you say, 'Look
you're Black. You can't come up here.
You sit in the back.' "
you think about that, think deep, you
say--. You get upset. You get upset. But
if you take a step back and say, "Well
look. Let's work on this thing a little
bit and see if we can't make some sense
out of this thing that doesn't make any
sense." And finally, it's worked out.
But it wasn't easy. Wasn't easy. And you
can take it from me, it wasn't easy. But
here I am.
look at this thing as how asinine.
Thirty years ago I couldn't sit in the
front of the church. And thirty years
later I'm a minister of that same
church. I'm giving out sacraments to
people in that same church. Analyze that
and just look at it and put it up on a
wall and look at it. And say, "How
foolish it is."
So there's some of the changes. And
they're good changes. But if you want
your children or maybe if you want the
world to see how foolish it was then put
it up on a screen and just compare them.
thirty years ago that same man - ain't
no change; his skin's the same color,
he's the same weight, looks the same--.
They had to sit in the back and now he's
up on the altar with the minister of
that church giving out Holly Communion
or officiating in the activities.
going to keep on talking about it. But I
do think about it. I don't get
frustrated anymore. But I do think about
it. And I don't talk to these children
too much about it because young
people--they're not seasoned enough to
take all these things and they
retaliate. Which sometimes isn't the
right thing to do. I kind of (chuckles)
put a little frosting on the cake before
I give it to them. I don't give them all
the stuff that we've gone through so
that they have the privilege of being
accepted. Because that's what it is.
Being accepted in these different phases
St. Mary's County is only 60 miles
south of Washington D. C. it has
been a forgotten isolated peninsula
for most of its 400 years of history
since the first European settlers
arrived. Countians have dealt with
their isolation in traditional as
well as innovative ways. During the
timeframe discussed in our oral
histories (1865 - present), local
African Americans not only had to
surmount the challenges of rural
poverty and the effects of Jim Crow,
but also had to overcome the
difficulties arising from a lack of
infrastructure that is typical of
Maryland's tidewater counties.
stories of African Americans in
Southern Maryland, we can learn
about the important contributions
people have made to build this
vibrant community. With this
knowledge and understanding of the
subculture, we then can better
locate ourselves in the present and
plan for our futures.