A Felt Need
The photo essay offers a first-hand account of the mysterious burning of Roanoke Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on December 22, 1963, told Mr. Elmer Beard, the church deacon. Chronicling the church's rise from a clandestine gathering before the Civil War to an influential activist institution during the 1960s civil rights movement, Beard offers insight into Roanoke's prophetic mission encompassing a commitment to justice despite reprisals. The essay brings forth the narrative of the Hot Springs NAACP chapter and its leaders, such as Reverend James Donald Rice, the pastor of Roanoke, during the time of the fire. The dynamics of Black placemaking, labor, and kinship are discussed. Beard's story describes the power of Black imagination in the context of a southern Black church. Roanoke's persistent presence is grounded in the audaciousness of formerly enslaved people who dared to create sanctuary affirming their humanity and divinity as well as future generations.