1,000 hear Sharpton at Springfield

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A “convenient amnesia” has overcome the black church, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Sunday as Augusta’s Springfield Baptist celebrated its 225th anniversary as the nation’s oldest continuously meeting black church.

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As part of the 225th anniversary celebration at Springfield Baptist Church Sunday afternoon August 12, 2012 a section of 12th Street was renamed Springfield Way.    Michael Holahan/Staff  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
As part of the 225th anniversary celebration at Springfield Baptist Church Sunday afternoon August 12, 2012 a section of 12th Street was renamed Springfield Way. Michael Holahan/Staff

“Many of us are behaving like the things we enjoy today were always there. When I look at how far we’ve come and then look at how some of us behave, we have a real problem with amnesia,” Sharpton said.

The pastor, founder of the civil rights nonprofit National Action Network, brought a crowd of 1,000 to its feet as he preached a message on remembering former trials in the historic downtown church, the founding place of Morehouse College.

Springfield was founded in 1787 by free and enslaved blacks, and served as Augusta’s only Baptist church until 1817.

“Two-hundred-and-twenty-five years ago, men and women who were slaves had no rights anybody would respect,” Sharpton said. “They had the mind to come together and form a church, even in those conditions. They praised God anyhow.

“Here we are 225 years later. Black president in the White House,” he said. “There was a time we had to worry about the Klan. Now we shooting each other.”

The community has forgotten where it has come from, Sharpton said. “You forgot what it took to get you here.”

While political leaders joined in the celebration, Sharpton was apolitical from the pulpit.

Springfield’s pastor, the Rev. Hardy S. Bennings III, said the choice was intentional.

“This is not a political rally. Amen,” he said. “We are here to bless God.”

For two hours, church members and visitors sang, praised and prayed in a packed sanctuary.

Sharpton celebrated the church’s historic role in the founding of Morehouse College and Georgia’s Republican Party.

Morehouse originated in the basement of Springfield as the Augusta Baptist Institute in 1867. In 1879, the school moved to Atlanta as the Atlanta Baptist Institute and was later renamed Morehouse College, an institution that has produced several prominent black leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Augusta’s own Rev. C.T. Walker.

The Georgia Equal Rights Association also first assembled at Springfield, marking the beginning of the Republican Party in Georgia.

Sharpton said he was “truly honored” to receive the invitation to speak.

He called Bennings, pastor of the church since 2009, “a young, strong visionary.” Sharpton also called Deanna Brown Thomas, daughter of the late James Brown, “my little sister.”

“Her father was like a father to me,” he said. “Her father took me in when I was a teenager. Much of what I have learned in life I learned from James Brown.”

Earlier in the day, Sharpton visited the downtown statue of James Brown. He also appeared at C.H. Terrell Academy for a performance from the J.B. Academy of Musik Pupils, a non-profit music education program founded by Brown Thomas.

A dozen students played selections from the Godfather’s catalogue of soul hits.

“We’ve been working on this for a year now,” said Neema Colon, 14. “All James Brown songs were appropriate, but we wanted to pick the ones that get people on their feet. It’s been exciting.”

The day’s anniversary events also included a church service with Augusta Fire Chief Chris James, a wreath-laying ceremony to honor former pastors, and the unveiling of a new street name for a portion of 12th Street: Springfield Way.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver, State Sen. Hardie Davis, State Rep. Henry “Wayne” Howard and the Rev. Ernest Brooks, associate campus minister at Morehouse, spoke, along with pastors of area churches, several of which were born out of Springfield.

“For 225 years, this facility, this church, has been a beacon of light in this community,” said Copenhaver, who called Sunday “a historic day in the life of this city.”

Sharpton gave the first offering, handing Sonja Bennings, first lady of the church, folded bills from the pulpit.

“You all stay here and give some money,” he said with a laugh. “I know Deke’s got plenty of money. We’re going to hang out together.”

Sharpton left the service early to catch a flight, but not before receiving multiple standing ovations.

“This was a dream realized,” Bennings said.

Comments (23) Add comment
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Riverman1
82184
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Riverman1 08/13/12 - 04:37 am
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Were any candidates for

Were any candidates for Sheriff there?

onlysane1left
216
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onlysane1left 08/13/12 - 04:45 am
1
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Republicans

Why weren't any Georgia Republicans there? Ashamed about celebrated where they were started maybe?

seenitB4
85293
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seenitB4 08/13/12 - 05:36 am
2
2
History

Wonderful history about this church.....google it sometimes.
It started in Shell Bluff South Carolina..

RoadkiII
6445
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RoadkiII 08/13/12 - 08:13 am
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onlysaneone, could it be they

onlysaneone, could it be they weren't invited? Seems no one wants to give Republicans credit for what they did during the civil rights movement. They are more than happy to give Democrats credit. Now think Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd among others.

Adrian27
10
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Adrian27 08/13/12 - 08:30 am
4
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Yes, there was a candidate

Yes, there was a candidate there running for office but if it is not an political event why were there so many elected officials there. Thats puzzling.

allhans
23524
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allhans 08/13/12 - 08:48 am
7
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As a pastor Sharpton should

As a pastor Sharpton should know that we are not to dwell in the past. Yesterday is gone....

itsanotherday1
41950
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itsanotherday1 08/13/12 - 09:32 am
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Interesting history of this

Interesting history of this church that I was unaware of.

onlysane1left
216
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onlysane1left 08/13/12 - 09:47 am
1
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Not Invited?

Maybe because they weren't invited? Bull...... Every year George W. Bush was in office, the NAACP invited him and EVERY YEAR, he declined to show. This event was to honor a church that started the party in the state, I can't believe, if they said they were coming, that they would be turned away, due to the historic and public nature of the event. I truly believe THEY DIDN'T WANT to come, which is a shame! They should have never felt in need to ask for an invitation, they should have offered to come. I wonder if Rev. Al waited for an invite........

Freeatlast
87
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Freeatlast 08/13/12 - 09:58 am
0
3
Wow! A 1k showed up to see

Wow! A 1k showed up to see Rev. Al Sharpton I wonder will they make their present know on Aug. 21, sheriff race Al Sharpton will be there.

csrareader
1287
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csrareader 08/13/12 - 10:19 am
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Al Sharpton practices racial

Al Sharpton practices racial terrorism, and it's a shame the church chose to invite him to commemorate the anniversary.

justthefacts
21342
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justthefacts 08/13/12 - 11:07 am
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GWB/NAACP

President Bush saw how his father was treated when he addressed the NAACP convention. Constant booing and jeering. He was treated with total disrespect. Bush obviously concluded they were not worth the trouble.

Sweet son
10053
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Sweet son 08/13/12 - 11:56 am
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@csrareader: You are Right On the Money!

It does look like the people at the church would have chosen a speaker that represented the goals and rich history of this church. He is nothing but a big mouth radical racist as you described him. I am sure that there would have been other better choices and I am sorry that the locals at Springfield chose him because of his prominence. He only shows up when he thinks he can get some print or tv coverage and I am sure that he was paid nicely! Why is it that all of these carpetbaggers call themselves preachers? LOL! They couldn't even carry my preacher's shoes!

HenryWalker3rd
2393
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HenryWalker3rd 08/13/12 - 11:58 am
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4
Have Jews forgot about the
Unpublished

Have Jews forgot about the Holocoust?

Then, why should black people forget about the past?

Seems, some want history erased and and forgotton.

HenryWalker3rd
2393
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HenryWalker3rd 08/13/12 - 12:01 pm
1
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Who are you to say...
Unpublished

For some to come here and say that the officials at Springfield did choose the "right" person, is such a condesending comment and a slap in the face to the MANY educated people who were able to bring Rev. Al to Augusta, Ga.

Augusta doesn't even give J. Brown the respect he deserves, so what can you expect?

Who are you to say that THEY chose the wrong person? Are you smarter or something?

daphne3520
950
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daphne3520 08/13/12 - 12:02 pm
0
1
Sharpton is a MORON!!!! Obama is ONE HALF white, ONE HALF black
Unpublished

WHY cant people of all races see this? Stevie Wonder can and he's blind for God's sake!

Darby
25010
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Darby 08/13/12 - 02:21 pm
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Then, why should black people forget about the past?

You don't forget the past, but you can't move forward until you put the past behind you. Using your logic, we should still be considering the Japanese as our mortal enemies. We will never forget Pearl Harbor, but we can still embrace the Japanese of 2012 as our friends. Why live in the past? What's the point of that?

kiwiinamerica
936
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kiwiinamerica 08/13/12 - 12:32 pm
1
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Al Got a Brand New Bag....er.....Suit.
Unpublished

Ol' Al has slimmed down some, hasn't he? He looks almost gaunt. Hardly recognizable.

I imagine he preached a nice civil rights sermon which dwelt on Black American history, political activism and the need for solidarity.

I doubt he mentioned God more than once or twice and that probably in passing. As for Scripture, forget it.

The Rev. Al belongs to the "Church of What's Happening Now".

Eternity........not so much.

RoadkiII
6445
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RoadkiII 08/13/12 - 01:15 pm
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James Brown Avenue, James

James Brown Avenue, James Brown Arena??? No respect???

csrareader
1287
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csrareader 08/13/12 - 02:02 pm
3
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The Church has the right to

The Church has the right to invite anyone it desires to speak at any event it wants. The public also has a right to disagree with that choice, and most importantly, to not attend. As such, it is my opinion that Al Sharpton is a racial terrorist, and has no business lecturing anyone in a church of any denomination.

Darby
25010
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Darby 08/13/12 - 02:28 pm
3
1
I wonder if Rev. Al waited for an invite........

The Reverend Al goes nowhere without an invitation, accompanied by lots of pictures of dead presidents...

grinder48
1884
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grinder48 08/13/12 - 04:12 pm
0
1
Tawana Brawley
Unpublished

Sharpton wants people to remember how it was? Anyone remember Tawana Brawley? In 1987 she accused innocent people of rape, Sharpton joined in, a jury later found Sharpton liable for making seven false and defamatory statements about the accused. As it turned out, no rape occurred. Sharpton is a slimeball, I'll never understand how people hold him up as anything but.

HighSociety
1840
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HighSociety 08/13/12 - 04:14 pm
4
0
We are quickly going

We are quickly going backwards on race relations. I'm amazed at how few ignorant people can cause such a mass problem. Ignorance is always the key ingredient to racism.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 08/13/12 - 04:55 pm
4
1
What do Republicans have to be embarrassed about?

It is the Democrats who should be embarrassed. Democrats tried to extend slavery and the Republicans sought to end it.
The new Republican Party, which was created in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, aimed to stop the expansion of slavery and soon emerged as the dominant political party in the North, electing its first president, Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Today, the Democrats, still seek to enslave, not only poor blacks, but all the poor including whites, blacks and hispanics for their own purposes of keeping themselves in power.

HighSociety
1840
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HighSociety 08/13/12 - 05:11 pm
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WB, Great post and very true.

WB, Great post and very true.

CobaltGeorge
155163
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CobaltGeorge 08/13/12 - 06:00 pm
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WB

I'll Second it too.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 08/13/12 - 06:30 pm
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Mucho gracias, High and CG

Mucho gracias, High and CG

dstewartsr
20389
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dstewartsr 08/13/12 - 06:53 pm
3
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Thought about attending

... and perhaps hear his apology to the men at Duke unjustly accused; or see him finally pay the fine for his slander and libel of the prosecutor of Tawana Brawley hoax. (He doesn't have to as he has NO property or income- in his own name) A solemn apology for shouting "Kill the Jews!" not once but twice to his black mob, who obeyed their racist leader. I'd like to hear him explain, "White folks was in caves while we was (sic) building empires... We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before ... them Greek (filtered word for homosexuals) ever got around to it." as engendering cross racial harmony. Not to bring up dozens of times chanting "No justice, no peace!" which is nothing less than a call to violence. But then, this man of peace, as he styles himself, is as honest as his tax-free charities.

palmetto1008
9782
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palmetto1008 08/13/12 - 07:20 pm
0
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Willow...are you forgetting
Unpublished

Willow...are you forgetting the transition in the 1960s when white southern democrats defected to the republican party because the democrats support equal rights beyond being freed from the bondage of slavery? Republicans have played the "southern strategy" since then.

rmwhitley
5542
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rmwhitley 08/13/12 - 07:29 pm
0
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sharpton
Unpublished

is as credible as obama. obama swore he didn't know rod blegojevich but there are multiple photographs available with the two hoods shaking hands, side by side at chicago thug functions. White conservatives are and have been held hostage by these hoods and the "bipolar" jesse jackson jr and his papa. Am I racist? I am as racist as these punks I've just mentioned.

justthefacts
21342
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justthefacts 08/13/12 - 08:21 pm
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Actually

The original House version:

Southern Democrats: 7–87 (7–93%)
Southern Republicans: 0–10 (0–100%)
Northern Democrats: 145–9 (94–6%)
Northern Republicans: 138–24 (85–15%)
The Senate version:

Southern Democrats: 1–20 (5–95%)
Southern Republicans: 0–1 (0–100%)
Northern Democrats: 45–1 (98–2%)
Northern Republicans: 27–5 (84–16%)

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