In this WSB newsfilm clip from September 26, 1966, Mercer University student Sam Oni and Dr. Thomas Holmes speak about the decision of Tattnall Square Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia, to remain segregated and dismiss Holmes as their pastor for advocating desegregation.
The clip begins by focusing on the sign at the entrance to Mercer University. The camera moves to show several campus buildings and men walking on campus. A white reporter interviews Sam Oni in front of Tattnall Square Baptist Church. Oni, a Baptist convert from Ghana, was one of three Black men who integrated Mercer University in 1963. Later the camera shows the sign for Tattnall Square Baptist Church. The sign indicates that the pastor, Thomas J. Holmes, will be speaking on "My Impossible Dream" at 7 pm, although no date is given for the sermon. The clip begins recording in the middle of Oni's statement. Oni details why he felt obligated to try to integrate Tattnall Square Baptist Church. According to Oni, the church members do not understand that their decision to reject potential church members of African descent impedes the church's missionary effort in Africa and in the rest of the world. By trying to attend Tattnall Square Baptist church, Oni tried to "forestall this terrible tragedy that was about to take place."
After this, the camera focuses on a mailbox with the sign "Thomas J. Holmes." The camera shows the front of the house. Inside, a name plaque indicates the desk belongs to Thomas J. Holmes. Holmes is sitting in an office in front of bookshelves speaking to an off-screen reporter. The reporter asks if Holmes would recommend Tattnall Square Baptist Church to someone seeking a church in Macon. Holmes indicates that he is not sure who the church will get to be its pastor and feels that "some things are going to have to be worked out before people could be happy in the church." He expresses his hope that the church works out its problems so "people can feel at home in the church." The clip audio breaks and returns to Holmes explaining that he had expressed his support of integration to the church before they called him to be pastor; at the time, he told the church he would not change his position. Asked about his future plans, Holmes says he has been a Baptist minister since his nineteenth birthday over thirty years earlier and plans to remain one. Holmes does not know if he will have a place to preach in the future.
The clip returns to Oni speaking to a reporter. Oni mentions that he tried to speak with the leaders of Tattnall Square Baptist Church but found them "very impervious to reason." The leaders "kept telling me about the position which the church has taken, namely that Negroes are not to be allowed in the sanctuary." After this, the clip returns to the interview with Holmes. Holmes cites two reasons people may maintain segregation in churches. The first is that some white people feel they are diminished by associating with African Americans; the second, according to Holmes, is fear.
Tattnall Square Baptist Church was the campus church of Mercer University. Land for the church had been given by the university to to the congregation in the early days of the school. Sam Oni, a Baptist convert from Ghana, integrated Mercer University along with two Macon African Americans in the fall of 1963. When Oni arrived in Macon, he was discouraged from attempting to join Tattnall Square Baptist Church as the membership had made it known they would not accept him. Oni's membership in Vineville Baptist Church was also initially contested. He was finally admitted to join the Vineville congregation because he was a foreigner from Africa and not an African American. In June 1966, two African Americans attended services one Sunday at Tattnall Square Baptist Church. Afterwards, the church voted not to permit African Americans to attend their services. Oni, who spent the summer in California, felt compelled to attempt to become affiliated with the church during his last year at Mercer. On September 25, 1966, Oni tried to attend Sunday service. He was met at the door by two deacons who wrestled him away from the church and into a waiting police car. Inside the church, the congregation voted to fire Pastor Holmes, the assistant pastor, and the church's music director because of their support for integrating the church. Oni tried again to attend Tattnall Square Baptist Church on October 2 and was again rejected; after his second rejection, he announced he would not try again. The church eventually gave up the university land and moved to a new location outside of town. They continued to maintain a white-only congregation for several years. Dr. Holmes, following his dismissal, was rehired as an assistant to a Mercer University administrator, a position he had held before he became pastor at Tattnall Square Baptist Church.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of comments by Sam Oni and Dr. Thomas Holmes following the decision of Tattnall Square Baptist Church to remain segregated and to dismiss Dr. Holmes as their pastor, Macon, Georgia, 1966 September 26, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1350, 36:55/40:55, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.