Mt. Zion AME Church will celebrate its 136th anniversary with a special worship service with an address from acclaimed civil rights leader, author and educator, Dr. Cleveland Sellers, Jr. on Sunday, October 14th at 10 A.M. The public is invited to join the congregation of Mt. Zion at one of the city’s most historic African American churches located at 5 Glebe Street.
Purchased in 1882 from a Presbyterian congregation, Mt. Zion AME is the first brick church in the city to be owned by African Americans. Birthed from Mother Emanuel AME when the growing congregation and disrepair of the old wooden building prompted Mt. Zion’s first pastor, Reverend Norman B. Sterrett, along with hundreds of members from Mother Emanuel, to walk from that historic structure to form a daughter church. Today Mt. Zion is a growing, thriving congregation and remains a leader in social justice and community outreach initiatives to reconcile and unite all citizens in Charleston.
“We strive not only to serve our own members, but all members of the community,” said Rev. Dr. Kylon Middleton, Mt. Zion’s 33rd Pastor. “Dr. Sellers’ story and message are inspiring and uplifting to all who hear him and we are honored that he will help us celebrate our 136th anniversary as we strive to remain a relevant prophetic voice in civil rights and social justice struggles of our day,” he said.
Born in Denmark, South Carolina, Dr. Cleveland Sellers, Jr. organized his first civil rights sit-in protest at the age of 15 in his hometown. He went on to labor at the heart of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee working alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., registering thousands of first-time black voters across the South, overseeing a Mississippi Freedom School at age 19 and searching that state’s swamps for the murdered bodies of his fellow freedom riders.
In 1968, Dr. Sellers returned home and was shot when state troopers killed 3 black students and wounded 28 more who were protesting outside a segregated bowling alley. The only person arrested, Dr. Sellers spent seven months in jail. He went on to graduate from Shaw University, obtain a master’s degree from Harvard and his PhD from UNC-Greensboro. He has held many teaching positions, among them Director of African American Studies at the University of South Carolina and president of Voorhees College. Many years after the tragedy in Orangeburg, the State of South Carolina formally recognized that he was used as a scapegoat and issued a full pardon.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “From Massacre to Miracle: Mt. Zion Inspires the Journey for Justice.” The anniversary service will begin promptly at 10 A.M. with a grand processional and special musical selections by the renowned Mt. Zion AME ONE Church Choir. A celebration reception will immediately follow during which Dr. Sellers and Adam Parker will be autographing copies of their newly released book Outside Agitator: The Civil Rights Struggle of Cleveland Sellers, Jr.
For more information about the Mt. zion anniversary event contact Donna Thorne at (803) 760-3483 or [email protected]