“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Ruleville in Sunflower County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)

William Chapel

— Mississippi Freedom Trail —

William Chapel Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, May 22, 2021
1. William Chapel Marker
Inscription.  The historic William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, established in 1922, was a longtime meeting place for civil rights activists before the organization of the modern civil rights movement. In 1962 the Reverend J. D. Story was the pastor when Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members came to Ruleville to start a voter registration drive. While attending a mass meeting at William Chapel, Fannie Lou Hamer was inspired to attempt to register to vote for the first time.

William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church
This church, for decades a place where disenfranchised people gathered to affirm their worth through their faith, became a regular meeting place of civil rights organizers. Today it stands as a symbol of the freedom struggles of the Mississippi Delta. Fannie Lou Hamer attended what was known as a "mass meeting" here in August 1962 to hear workers from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). They had come to Ruleville in Sunflower County, one of the most intractable areas of segregation, to spread the news of voter registration

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for African Americans, James Bevel, a young colleague of Martin Luther King Jr. quoted a passage in the Bible from the book of Matthew, words that inspired those gathered to claim what was rightfully theirs. Then SNCC member James Forman explained their constitutional right to the vote. Isolated from national news for most of her life. Fannie Lou Hamer and others attending the meeting had never heard that they could register to vote, and this knowledge, delivered powerfully to her during the mass meeting inspired her to join the fight for freedom. She went on to become an organizer of Mississippi Freedom Summer for SNCC and later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in that capacity.

The Rev. J. D. Story, pastor of William Chapel during this turbulent time (1966-1979), was a courageous freedom fighter in his own right. Encouraging civil rights organizations to hold meetings there when other churches feared being firebombed, he was revered for always saying, "The doors of the church are open." Mass meetings were held every Friday at 7:30 p.m. for a number of years, and the church was in fact firebombed after a civil rights rally in June 1964. Mrs. Mary Tucker, a prominent figure in the Sunflower Freedom Movement, was one of the founding trustees.

After Fannie

William Chapel Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Brother Rogers -
2. William Chapel Marker
Lou Hamer's death at the age of fifty-nine, her funeral was held in William Chapel in April 1977 and attended by more than five thousand people. She was eulogized by other civil rights leaders including Vernon Jordan, Hodding Carter III, and Congressman Andrew Young.
Erected 2018 by Mississippi Development Authority Tourism Division. (Marker Number 26.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansChurches & ReligionCivil Rights. In addition, it is included in the Mississippi Freedom Trail series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1922.
Location. 33° 43.998′ N, 90° 32.743′ W. Marker is in Ruleville, Mississippi, in Sunflower County. Marker is at the intersection of O B Avenue and Elisha and Everette Langdon Street, on the right when traveling north on O B Avenue. Located at William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 915 Elisha and Everette Langdon St, Ruleville MS 38771, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Fannie Lou Hamer (approx. 0.3 miles away); a different marker also named Fannie Lou Hamer (approx. 0.3 miles away); Ruleville Depot (approx. 0.6 miles away); Jimmy Rogers (approx. 0.6 miles away);
Marker at the William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, May 22, 2021
3. Marker at the William Chapel Missionary Baptist Church
"Greasy Street" (approx. 0.6 miles away); Birthplace of the Blues? (approx. 4.1 miles away); Dockery Plantation (approx. 4.1 miles away); Drew, Mississippi (approx. 5.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ruleville.
William Chapel & Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, May 22, 2021
4. William Chapel & Marker
Credits. This page was last revised on May 30, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 29, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 289 times since then and 138 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on May 29, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

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Dec. 6, 2023