By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – It was simply known as “the Church.”
And now Springhill Missionary Baptist Church has a special sign in its front yard.
On Friday, members of the church joined friends and city leaders as they celebrated the unveiling of the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau’s third marker on its Heritage Trails Enrichment Program.
The marker is the second on the Civil Rights and African American Heritage trail.
“This is a very special day for us,” said the Rev. Gary Long. “The marker is a great reminder of the history of the church and the goodwill that emerged from here and spread across the city.”
During the civil rights era, the church was one of several key spots where people met and planned to protest and march. Groups like the NAACP, the United League, Freedom Marchers and Council of Federated Organizations met at Springhill.
“I’m just happy,” said Lee County supervisor Tommie Lee Ivy at Friday’s ceremony. “This place brought people together so nobody would be left behind. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.”
Phyllis Sims, a member of the church who also serves on the CVB’s Heritage Trails Enrichment Program advisory board, said the marker serves to remind people of the past as well as provide guidance for the future. It is a chance to preserve history and to educate people, she said.
“We played a role in history. … it’s not over; there’s still more to be done,” she said. “And it can be done.”
Springhill Missionary Baptist Church is the oldest black church in Tupelo. It was established in the 1850s, and its original sanctuary, built in 1921, still stands.
The Tupelo CVB has placed three markers as part of the first phase of its Heritage Trails Enrichment Program and 10 markers will be unveiled during the year. The program was created to identify and interpret historical Chickasaw, civil rights and African-American heritage and Civil War sites in Tupelo and Lee County.