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Prathia Hall

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“As God’s child … I am everything that I’m supposed to be. It may cost my job, it may cost my life, but I want to be free, and I want my children to be free. So I’m going down to the courthouse, and I’m going to sign my name. And I’m going to trust God to take me there, and I’m going to trust God to bring me back.”

Prathia Hall

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Prathia Hall is the one platform speaker I would prefer not to follow.” Prathia Hall was the daughter of a Philadelphia minister who passionately worked for racial justice, and she followed in his steps. Hall left college one credit away from graduation to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Georgia where she did voter registration and education work in “Terrible” Terrell County.

In the two years after Hall’s arrival, white terrorists bombed or burned 41 black churches. Hall, who had a reputation as a powerful and moving orator, spoke at a meeting following one of these devastating burnings. In one prayer she repeatedly said, “I have a dream,” – words said to have inspired Martin Luther King’s famous speech.

In Hall’s “deep passion for justice,” she grappled with the intense fear and anger that accompanied her work. “How much of this can human beings take? Even though I fiercely wanted to be a responsible, non-violent participant in this struggle that was no easy feat.”

Looking back on the movement, Hall saw there needed to be space “for the expression of authentic anger, even rage … we might have had even greater power if we had somehow found a way to allow space for the expression of righteous anger.” This was not the case, and in 1966, when SNCC began to move away from its principles of nonviolence, Hall resigned to take up the role of minister at her father’s old church. She pastored there for nearly 25 years and never stopped preaching for justice.

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