Amzie Moore, an African American businessman from nearby Cleveland, brought workers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committe (SNCC) to Sunday morning services here on August 9, 1962. They met Joe and Rebecca McDonald, leaders in the curch who opened their home to the young Civil Rights workers. Two weeks later, the SNCC staffers held the first of many mass meetings to be hosted at this site. Fannie Lou Hamer attended this meeting and got involved with SNCC’s efforts to organize a voter registration initiative. Her participation in a trip to the Sunflower County courthouse in Indianola on August 31 was the beginning of her rise to prominence in the Mississippi Movement.
William Chapel suffered several repercussions for supporting Civil Rights activites. The mayor revoked their free water and tax exemptions since the building was no longer being used exclusively for worship. The church was fire-bombed by night riders on June 25, 1964.
It was the women of the church–deaconesses like Rebecca McDonald and Mrs. Hamer–who pressured the pastor and deacons to keep William Chapel open to Civil Rights activities. As historian J. Todd Moye notes,”[Charles] McLaurin, Hamer, and the women of the church continued to use the pulpit on Sundays to cajole fearful congregants into attempting to register at the county courthouse.”
The next site described in this guide is on private property outside Ruleville. Please read the text on the next page, then follow the directions at the bottom of the page to stop number 2 on the tour.
“Ruleville Civil Rights Driving Tour”