Those stained glass windows were ordered from Germany in 1908 and put in the church when the sanctuary was built. Some Wednesdays we had to come up in the sanctuary, describe what the scene is in that window, and recite a Bible verse related to that picture. Don’t ask me to do that now!
The church actually got its start in 1866 when African Americans who were worshiping at the Methodist church in downtown Selma were regulated to the balconies and could not worship on the main sanctuary floor.
This church stood as a beacon for people to come, where they could worship freely, and it wasn’t just about worship, it was also about life.
My mother allowed us to skip school to come to the church to march and to participate in the student movement.
In order to get to the church we had to walk through throngs of white men on horseback with all kinds of weapons, and they would taunt us as we walked to the church.
My family was always a part of the mass meetings. My grandmother would come to Brown Chapel and sit near the front because Dr. King came in a specific door right over here. And she would get up and reach out and touch him. And then when we got home we would hear about how it felt to her to lay her hands on him.
Bloody Sunday, we were here at the church. For Brown Chapel it was a regular first Sunday and as church was ending people had begun to gather on the steps of the church.
And we were sitting in the church and heard the screams, and we heard the horses’ hooves. So we ran outside to see what was going on, and that’s when we saw the carnage that had followed the people back to the church…people with gashes in their heads. Some of my classmates were in the streets trying to pull their clothing off because it was so full of tear gas.
I remember seeing the horses ride up the steps of the church, which was terrible for me because this is a sacred place to me. I was baptized as an infant right there at that alter.
One of my favorite memories was after Bloody Sunday, and Dr. King, he issued a call for help and on Monday there was a mass meeting. These doors opened on both sides of the church and in came, practically two by two, clergy and seminary students from all over the world. They had come. They had come to help, and most of them did not look like me. It helped me understand and to know that people did care.
Young people who come to tour the site…the first thing I say is, “Always have your truth to speak, and don’t be afraid to speak your truth. Don’t let anybody speak your truth for you.”