Historic Bethel Baptist Church and its surrounding area of Collegeville, Alabama, hold a history that should be preserved. Collegeville has been nominated as a historic national landmark by UNESCO World Heritage Centre with such a great nomination, improvements must follow.
The Historic Bethel Baptist Church Foundation, which is overseen by Dr. Martha Bouyer, a former Jefferson County Board of Education member and educator, speaks to the historic preservation of Collegeville and the landmark Bethel Baptist Church. The Bethel Restoration Fund has been given a grant by the Centre, which will impact 12 homeowners in the area with renovations.
There will be an application process for local homeowners to go through to qualify.
Collegeville, now a graying community, was once the home of civil rights meetings which were held in Bethel Baptist Church under the leadership of Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. In this current climate of social unrest, Dr. Bouyer reiterated the point that “Education is key.” We need to look to the past to learn the lessons on how to create change effectively.
Many people today don’t look at the past and are not educated on the history of civil rights. Dr. Bouyer wanted to change that because “teaching is important.” As a former educator, she wanted to host a workshop for teachers across the country to be educated upon civil rights. “Rev. Shuttlesworth knew how important the teacher was,” said Dr. Bouyer. She applied for a grant through the National Endowment for the Arts and created her workshop “Stony Road We Trot: Alabama’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.”
Around 50 educators from across the country come down to Alabama to be educated on civil rights by scholars and foot soldiers. She expressed that it is important to tell history as it happened and be careful of revisionism. An example of revisionism occurred in Texas when they wanted to take slavery out of the history books and substitute the word “slave” for “indentured-servant.”
Indentured servants had a choice to work under a contract, and slaves didn’t. We need to be educated upon our history to make sure that we are preserving the truth.
A lot of ethnic groups don’t know about history; therefore, it can’t be appreciated. One fact that many people may not realize about civil rights is that the church was essential to the movement. It was the only place that Black people had power and how we were able to create change non-violently. “For the meek shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5) That is the attitude we should take when protesting the injustice in the world. “Hatred is poison,” said Dr. Bouyer
Young people are now the next generation to lead change and have been doing so, but let’s not forget to look back and study how the foot soldiers before us lead the fight for change. Rioting hurts the community we are trying to change, but protesting peacefully can bring out change for the better.
By preserving the history of Collegeville and Bethel Baptist Church, many generations to come will be able to appreciate the powerful history that lies within the streets of the town. Construction on the houses will begin in the coming months and we are excited to see the many ways that God will continue to provide during this time.
-Camille Womack, intern