A group of us want to make a pilgrimage of sorts to the Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitaker, North Carolina.
What’s the Franklinton Center at Bricks? A center in the United Church of Christ for justice work around issues of racial equality in America.
The fertile farmland of Franklinton Center at Bricks contains both tragedy and hope. The acres where tobacco and cotton once were harvested were part of a plantation known as the place to break unruly slaves. Through the ashes of that pre-Civil War horror, hope in the form of educational opportunity and leadership development was cultivated.
Franklinton Center at Bricks grew out of the union of two separate entities: Bricks School, founded by the American Missionary Association, and Franklinton Christian College. The schools merged in 1954.
Franklinton Christian College was started by the James O’Kelly Christian Church in 1871 to train black leaders for local churches. Similarly, Julia Bricks established the Bricks Junior College in 1895 through a gift of land and endowment to the American Missionary Association. The AMA, begun by Congregationalists, opened schools across the South following the Civil War. Many of its schools still exist, including the UCC-related historically Black colleges. Today, the work of the AMA continues through the United Church of Christ.
In the 21st century, Franklinton Center at Bricks is playing a significant role in the education and nurture of church and community leaders, justice advocates, and young people. The Center hosts and trains visiting groups on social justice issues, and also serves the local community. The center weaves rural justice, hunger issues, environmental racism, and workers’ rights into its programmatic focus.
Franklinton Center at Bricks still holds reminders of the past: two buildings from the original school still exist, as does a magnolia tree that marks where a plantation whipping post once stood. The Bricks Museum at Memorial Hall offers a collection of historical documents that include photographs, paintings, artifacts, journals, and materials from the many lives of the site, including an early 20th-century post office and various schools.
The Center also partners with many area organizations in a variety of outreach programs. The Whitakers area has one of the highest poverty and illiteracy rates in the country, and is the second largest “food desert” in the United States. As part of its ministry, the center offers youth and adult literacy classes, plus many other programs, including nutrition, sustainable agriculture, environmental awareness, and racial and social injustice.
We’ll be traveling down for Franklinton Center Day, an annual homecoming of sorts. The invitation promises:
Come on home and meet your friends and bring your family, come ready to support the Bricks Farmers Market, vendors and the swimming pool. This annual celebration and fundraiser will feature powerful and prophetic preaching, sensational and spirit-filled singing, tasty food, fellowship, and music.
This year speaker is the Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk, a friend of our own Delilah Morrow. For 50 years, Rev. Dr. Delk, has been a strong ally in the fight for human and civil rights for people of color, children and the poor. The Rev. Dr. Delk was the first Black woman ordained in the United Church of Christ. She has had a long and fruitful career as a teacher, educator, preacher, executive, organizer and author in the United States and the wider global community.
Franklinton Center Day is on Saturday, August 2 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. We will drive down on Friday and stay over. After the celebration, we will come back late Saturday night.
We’re hoping that our trip will be a strong start for the Sacred Conversation on Race that is being planned for Old First in the upcoming year…
So far, Delilah, Jackie, Margaret E., Michael and Mimi J. and Michael C. are going. But there’s room for more. Talk with Delilah or Michael C. if you are interested.