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In her 1994 book Quiet Strength, Parks described how her belief in Christ as humanity's savior developed after her baptism in the AME Church at the age of two."In those days, they sprinkled us with water like the Catholics did," she recalled.Hymns played a large part in the AME Sunday service, which spawned the gospel-music genre from the singing and shouting and dancing in ecstatic celebration of Jesus Christ.Although they observed the same Communion rituals as traditional Methodist churches, AME preachers didn't just intone passages from the New Testament; they used impassioned oratory to bring the spirit of the Lord right into their congregations.A portion of the front picture window has been shattered as though from a rock thrown into the living room, and the picket fence that marks the property is severely splintered.But for a sturdy brick chimney, the edifice would appear no better than the sharecroppers' shacks photographed so hauntingly by Walker Evans in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.It wouldn't matter so much were not some entrepreneurial Tuskegeeans anxious to attract tourists by opening a multicultural human and civil rights center boasting her name, and others, less commerce-minded, eager to post a bronze plaque somewhere in town marking her inclusion in Tuskegee's extraordinary roster of African-American heroes, from Booker T.
To this day, AME ministers challenge America to live up to its ideals of equality for all.
Some Yoruba priests brought over on slave ships could recite a King James Bible's worth of African religious teachings, a practice that lived on in African-American Christianity.
Thus it was that at an early age the inquisitive Rosa Mc Cauley began memorizing Bible verses, routinely quoting Scripture with Sunday school pride.
"Its teaching became a way of life and helped me in dealing with my day-to-day problems." She did, however, augment her nonviolent disposition with a belief that revenge was sometimes necessary.
"From my upbringing and the Bible I learned people should stand up for rights," she recalled, "just as the children of Israel stood up to the Pharaoh." Rosa's father, James Mc Cauley, hailed from Abbeville, Alabama, a farm town ninety-five miles south of Montgomery known for its wood pulp and cotton gins.
"The church, with its musical rhythms and echoes of Africa, thrilled me when I was young," Parks recalled.