A church in Alabama with deep roots in the civil rights movement will be converted into a museum to celebrate the "Christian impact" it has in the community.
The Christian Post reported that the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church located in Montgomery, Alabama will be converting its 19th Century building into a museum that "celebrates the Christian impact" they had in the community since it was established in 1866, based on an interview with the overseer for the restoration, Charles P. Everett IV.
The historical building has been monumental and witness to the civil rights movement that involved Jim Crow, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The church's very leaders were involved in civil rights activism such that these would then be the highlight of the museum.
"A year from now, we will be in a position to begin to have a museum that celebrates the Christian impact that Mount Zion AME Zion Church has had on Montgomery, Alabama, since 1866. It will convey the mighty movement of God and His provision for a church of people who were once enslaved. You got to remember that when we were organized, it was just a few months after the Civil War began to end," Everett told The Christian Post.
"We are hoping to celebrate in that museum the impact of Christian leadership through the ages, from 1866 to the present age," he revealed.
Everett said Mount Zion AME Church received in 2018 a $500,000 grant for the project. The building is now called the Mount Zion AME Zion Church Memorial Annex since the congregation has moved to a new space in 1990 because of the interstate's construction that resulted in many members relocating elsewhere.
Accordingly, the building was sold when the congregation moved to its new location. The building was then not given its proper care for it was left vacant for a long time, leaving many areas in need of repair. Thus, the annex' restoration has been going on for years--involving improvements outside of the building--through the Mount Zion Center Foundation.
The Foundation received the second grant of $500,000 in September 2020 from the National Park Service, which they intend to use for the Fellowship Hall in the second floor.
The further renovations of the annex--the inside of the building beginning with the original room used for the first meeting of the Montgomery Improvement Association--was announced on Sunday when the church celebrated its 155th anniversary. Everett said that once the restoration is done by August 2022, they hope the annex will also become a meeting place of the community just like it once was during the civil rights movement.
"We are a church that has survived through the Reconstruction period of the South and of course, we are a church that has members that served during the modern civil rights movement and there are members of the church who, once the laws of Jim Crow began to fall, answered the call to duty," Everett disclosed.
"So Mount Zion, as far as civil rights is concerned, we are still in the midst of it. So, when we talk about Mount Zion and its history of civil rights, our roots run very deep to the soil of Montgomery," he said.
In particular, the church's involvement in the civil rights movement included the Montgomery bus boycott of the 1950s and an important meeting among church leaders and a group of activists in 1955. The 1955 meeting actually led to the election of then 26-year-old Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the Montgomery Improvement Association Head, which is said to be his first official leadership role in civil rights.
There was also the trolley boycotts in reaction to the United Supreme Court decision that upheld institutional segregation through the "Plessy v. Ferguson" case. This was followed by the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 that Martin Luther King, Jr. participated in. The March raised the difficulties Black voters experience during elections and the need for a Voting Rights Act in the country.