- by Rev. Gil Caldwell -
I was 20 years old in 1954 when on May 17th of that year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling declaring racially segregated public schools invalid. That year I was finishing my junior year in college and beginning to look forward to responding to my call to ministry by going to Seminary in 1955. (My first application for admission to Seminary was sent to Duke Divinity School in my home state of North Carolina, and as I have written before, I was refused admission because of my race).
At the time of the May 17, 1954 ruling, I had already become the news-focused person that I still am today as I move toward my 80th birthday in October. Remember theologian Karl Barth said, "The Christian lives his/her life with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other." The news following the public school decision informed us that many Churches in the south began the process of establishing racially segregated schools in order to avoid racial integration. I remember wondering, how long could the Methodist Church retain and maintain its racially segregated Central Jurisdiction when the Supreme Court had declared racially segregated schools unconstitutional? (The answer; 14 years until our merger in 1968).