Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

History in our library

The previous owner of our house was the former dean of the local Methodist seminary, a man who was active in the civil rights movement and rode with the Freedom Riders. Tonight, going through some of the books that had been left in the house, I saw a folded paper peeking out of a tome entitled Pillar of Fire : America in the King Years 1963-65 and opened it to find a facsimile of a letter.
Delaware, OH
September 20, 1963

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE SIXTEENTH AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA

We the students and faculty of the the Methodist Theological School in Ohio are among your many brothers in Christ who were deeply shocked and appalled by the brutal bombing of your church and killing of your children this past Sunday.

Our shock has been mixed with guilt, for we are part of a large body of professing Christians who have been slow to rise to the call of our faith and cry out against injustice, inhumanity, and oppression. We know ourselves to be among the many whose silence has led to your suffering. We therefore ask your forgiveness as we pray for God's.

Knowing of some of your immediate needs we have collected gifts of money which we are sending to the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, whom we were privileged to have among us for a short time a few months ago and to whom we confidently entrust the employing of these funds where he sees the need as greatest.

We would not, however, salve our consciences by sending such gifts. While we were already active in the struggle for freedom and justice for all, we have, since last Sunday's tragedy, rededicated ourselves to this task and redoubled our efforts to break through every wall of silence and separation, of fear and hatred, of apathy and unconcern. For we are determined -- praying that God may hold us to and guide us in our resolve -- that your children shall not have died in vain.

Walter R. Dickhaut, Jr., President
Student Association

Van Bogard Dunn, Dean
The Methodist Theological School in Ohio
On a hunch, I flipped to the index of the book, and as I suspected, there was an entry for Dunn, Van Bogart, on page 271.
On March 29 (1964), seven white theology professors and two Mississippi Negroes approached Capitol Street Methodist Church of Jackson for the Ester morning service. "That's far enough -- no end runs," announced the spokesman for a line of ushers interposed on the front steps. A standoff ensued. "I guess you'll have to arrest us," concluded Rev. Van Bogard Dunn, dean of Methodist Theological School in Ohio. While being led away toward a sentence of six months' jail and a $500 fine, Dunn got the commanding officer to say that police would have taken no action without the explicit request of the church ushers. The reply was legal grist for Jack Pratt of the National Council of Churches, who planned to argue on appeal from paragraph 2026 of the Methodist Church Discipline that no Methodist church could ban interracial worship on legitimate religious grounds.
Many of the books left here (and there were many left) contain notes tucked inside or a review of the work clipped from the newspaper, or cards marking the book as a gift. The Dunns were great readers and inscribers, and many of the books were dated on their receipt. I had been gathering up a number of volumes that were of no personal interest to Darwins, but now I see I'm going to have to flip through each book, which means I'll be sucked into reading most of them, and the library shelves aren't going to get lighter any time soon.

(You may remember one of our previous finds from the library, which involved a minie ball of ill repute.)



4 comments:

Lauren said...

You should contact the archivist/librarian at the seminary. They might be interested in the books and letters as part of their school's history. It would lighten your shelves, and they'd probably really love a record of the dean.

abby said...

I am a student at MTSO and it is fascinating to read this snippet of Dean Dunn's life. It's also a small world; my current pastor's mentor is Fred Shuttlesworth. Small, small world.

mrsdarwin said...

Abby, I took the book and letter down to the college yesterday. Ask the secretary at the front desk and she can tell you where they were put. I'm sure MTSO had a copy of the letter in their archives somewhere, but if not, I'm delighted to have the letter return to those who will be most inspired by it.

Dean Dunn was quite a figure in Delaware, apparently. His civil rights work wasn't always appreciated locally, said my neighbor who knew him well, but he was the kind of man who would not be budged when he knew he was right. I wish we'd known him and his wife; they sound like such fascinating people -- and they left us plenty of great books.

abby said...

I'll be sure to ask; classes started, so I'm on campus and a little crazed lately! Great books people leave are such a wonderful way to get to know a little about them!