Committal service honors African American souls --- photo gallery.
They were not slaves. They were people who were enslaved.
Descendants of people who were enslaved were committed to sacred ground in the Clinton city limits on Sunday, as First Presbyterian Church dedicated a marker in their honor.
Representatives of Black churches in this area were invited to the ceremony, conducted by the Racial Equity Task Force. Two small markers show where people of color are buried in the Clinton Cemetery – this granite marker is much more impressive.
Conducting the Committal Service for Our African American Brothers and Sisters (Sept. 19, 2021) were:
n Dr. Jeri Parris Perkins, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Clinton;
n John Ferguson, member, Racial Equity Task Force;
n The Reverend Sylvester Grant, Pastor, Little River Baptist Church, Ware Shoals;
n The Reverend Racquel Gill, Interim Chaplain and Community Engagement, Presbyterian College;
n The Cemetery Committee. First Presbyterian Church; and
n The Racial Equity Task Force, First Presbyterian Church.
Names of Black people buried in the cemetery confirmed by church records were read, following by a solemn bell ringing. They are buried in an open field in a corner of the cemetery, just off East Carolina Avenue, Hwy 76 which runs the breadth of Laurens County.
Ferguson said, “This is the kind of ceremony which is, unfortunately, rare in Laurens County. But hopefully this will be the start of something big.”
In 1864, the church took over care of the village cemetery. In 1878, two additional acres were acquired. George Holland, 1815 – 1856, has the oldest grave. Before the Civil War, First Presbyterian Church had African America members and finally there is memorial to those who lie here, Ferguson said.
In 1868, the Sun Bonnet Garden Club placed a bronze plaque to mark the Black area of the Clinton Cemetery, with a beautification of the cemetery. Deacons of First Presbyterian Church donated $200 to the project.
Rev. Grant presented “Wade in the Water” in honor of those buried here.
Rev. Gill said, “We honor those buried here today, bodies kissed by nature’s sun, who represent the nearly 4 Million Black lives who have endured the horror, the subjugation, the agony of slavery on American soil. For they were not slaves. They were people who were enslaved. People with dreams, people with hopes, people with aspirations, people who loved, people who laughed … people who dared to keep living in a world that constantly told them that they were never meant to survive.”
Just as Joshua dedicated the stones, First Presbyterian Church and the Clinton community dedicates the monument, Gill said, “that it might edify our community, that it might educate the generations to come and that ultimately it might glorify the God of our salvation.”
Just as the ceremony began, the church’s 4 p.m. bell tolled. And, as Rev. Grant concluded his spiritual, the 4:15 p.m. bell’s resounding filled the air.