Historic marker at Miss church quickly rebuilt by Ohio students, faculty after 1964 arson

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BLUE MOUNTAIN, Mississippi — One of the people who helped rebuild a black church that was set ablaze in 1964 says a historic marker there is a tribute to dozens of Mississippi churches burned or bombed for taking a stand for civil rights.

The church in Blue Mountain was burned hours after Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party held a rally and voter registration drive there.

Marcia Aronoff, who was among students and faculty members who traveled from Oberlin College in Ohio to Blue Mountain to help rebuild Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, spoke Saturday, when authorities unveiled marker.

"I was not really sure whether or not the Mississippi Commission was going to agree to say that it was burned down because of civil rights activities," said Aronoff. ".at the time, nobody was willing to say that it was burned because people were audacious enough to seek their rights."

When she first came to Blue Mountain, Aronoff was a 20-year-old Oberlin senior sociology student and cochairman of Oberlin Action for Civil Rights. Church meetings and Christmas card sales in Ohio raised money for the project, and all 1,300 students at Oberlin donated a day of lunch money.

The new marker, headlined "CARPENTERS FOR CHRISTMAS," noted that the students, church members and other volunteers began work Dec. 22, 1964.

"On Christmas Day, with four walls erected, a service was held," it continued. "By January 2 the building was operable again as a church and meeting place for civil rights activities. Antioch was one of almost forty churches burned in Mississippi during a six-month period that year."

"This marker really represents all of those churches," Aronoff said.

A handwritten sign in the church Saturday read, "Welcome — destroyed by hate, rebuilt by love," The Southern Sentinel reported (http://bit.ly/1AwHEpy).

The marker is the 17th on the Mississippi Freedom Trail, which was launched in 2011 to commemorate people and places of the civil rights era.

Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com

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