Black Baptists in The Jim Crow Era
Delta Cultural Center
This exhibit explores the role of the Baptist Church and its leaders in the lives of African Americans during the turbulent Jim Crow era. Baptist churches provided unity and an important refuge where black families could flourish, largely free of white influence or prejudice. This lead to the rapid expansion of the Baptist Church throughout the Arkansas Delta and the South. Activists such as Booker T. Washington and others used this religious awakening to further the cause of reform.
Upon entry, visitors peer through a large simulated stain glass Gothic-inspired church window to see the silhouette of a figure standing at his pulpit. Reverend Elias Camp Morris, the pastor of Centennial Baptist Church of Helena located just a few blocks from the museum, rose to national prominence through his work with the National Baptist Convention and more. The colors, forms and warm wood casework allude to period church interiors and exterior architecture. The positive feeling of community and modesty encouraged in the real church contrasts starkly with the raucous imagery of Jim Crow stereotypes. The exhibit presents disturbing facts while preserving the dignity and strength exemplified by African American families and leaders in this complex time. The exhibit has a documentary style video and audio interactives with period gospel hymn performances and narrated excerpts from Morris’ speeches.
Opened September 2021