My Introduction to the Old South

I attended the South Hamelton Elementary School for my first eight grades of school, located North of the Mason Dixon Line and integrated. For my high school years I went South of the Mason Dixon to the Eastern Mennonite school at Harrisonburg, Virginia.  EMS had a student-run Young Peoples Christian Association that distributed  “The Way,” held meetings in the local jail, and in homes for the elderly, etc.

This led me to try a stumbling witness to a ninety-year old southerner.  He asserted that blacka had no souls.  Like monkeys, he said. Remember, this was about seventy-five years ago. It was my introduction to the racism of the old, old south.

A few years later I was in Gulfport, Mississippi as a member of the CPS unit for conscientious objectors to war.  Unit members were advised that drivers who faced the problem of running into either a cow or a woman, hit the woman.  Drivers would face fewer legal difficulties if a black woman were injured or killed.


Congregation in Anderson, SC

Still more years later I found myself as the bishop of Mennonite churches in South Carolina. One of the churches was composed of all African American members, including the pastor.  The pastor and his wife were natives of the area, but while living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania they were converted in a Mennonite Mission. White friends sometimes visited the black pastor in his South Carolina home.  This was not easily understood.

The pastor showed me a brief note he had received from the KU KLUX KLAN  It advised him to “Go back to your mother.  Your daddy has nothing for you.”    The note assumed he had a white father and a black mother. Such sexual encounters were common in the racist old south.  The pastor took the note to the local  Sherriff and explained his activities, and his strange guests.  The Sherriff  listened carefully, and then assured the pastor that he would have no more difficulties. The sherriff may have been a member of the KLAN.

One night the  pastor and I were driving through a wooded area of South Carolina.  We came unexpectedly on a KLAN rally along the road.  The men wore hoods and gowns, and were burning a cross.  We sped by without displaying any curiosity.







About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
This entry was posted in Church, Faith, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to My Introduction to the Old South

  1. Raymond Martin says:

    I am reading “CORA OF WILLOW HILL.” “She prepared her first meal in Tanganyika by opening a can of pork sausage which she fried and made potato soup with eggs using Mrs. J Irvin Lehman’s recipe.” Now I made you hungry! Enjoy the memory.

    • Thanks for reminding me of my mother’s potato soup. A table mate of mine said he wished he could taste of his mother’s ground cherry pie. The plants came up in volunteer fashion each year in my parent’s garden. I bought a few tiny plants for Rachel and Eldon’s garden and they tell me they have come up as volunteers in their garden. I believe I will have a taste of my daughter’s ground cherry pie. Memory is good! Reality is better!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.