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Profile: Greater New Bethel Baptist Church

Greater New Bethel Baptist Church was a participant or observer in the following events:

Civil rights leaders, politicians, and local residents gather in Jasper, Texas, to mourn the violent death of James Byrd Jr., an African-American brutally murdered by white supremacists (see June 7, 1998 and After). Byrd’s funeral service is held in the Greater New Bethel Baptist Church, where Byrd’s father is a deacon and his mother a Sunday School teacher. Two hundred guests fill the sanctuary while another 600 participate outside the building. One speaker after another says that Byrd’s death should bring whites and blacks together in outrage and determination to end racial violence. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, a national civil rights leader, refers to his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in saying: “Dr. King would say that unearned suffering is redemptive, that there’s power in the blood of the innocent. Brother Byrd’s innocent blood alone could very well be the blood that changes the course of our country, because no one has captured the nation’s attention like this tragedy.” Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater is one of several speakers that acknowledge the family’s wish for a small, private funeral ceremony. Speaking to Byrd’s sister Clara Taylor from the podium, Slater says: “We know, Clara, that you wanted to be left alone. But we can’t. We have to be with you. We have to be with this family and we have to be here in Jasper. Because we can ill afford to have what has happened here happen any place else across this land.” Other speakers include civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), and Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA). The Byrd family banned reporters and photographers from the service. A small number of the area’s white residents take part in the service; many area residents, both black and white, wear yellow ribbons honoring Byrd’s memory, and some area stores and buildings fly their flags at half mast. A small number of African-American men from the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panthers conduct a march from the sheriff’s office into Byrd’s neighborhood, wearing paramilitary garb, carrying shotguns and rifles, and advising black residents to arm themselves; according to news reports, the marchers are generally ignored. [New York Times, 6/13/1998]

Entity Tags: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Clara Taylor, James Byrd, Jr, Maxine Waters, New Black Panthers, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rodney Slater, Greater New Bethel Baptist Church, Nation of Islam

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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