The late Rev. Thomas A. Wright stands out as a leader.
Wright became pastor of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in 1962, the same year he began leading the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Located in the historically black neighborhood of Pleasant Street, Gainesville,Fl. Mount Carmel Church became an epicenter for civil rights, hosting the meetings and housing the activities of a number of organizations including, among others, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights. Describing the protests and picketing that led up to the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Rev. Wright described the church as “a kind of headquarters” where “University of Florida faculty members, students and also people from the community” gathered to organize. During the 1950s and ’60s, the church served as a spiritual and social center for Gainesville's African American community. The historical and cultural significance of Mount Carmel Church and the work of Rev. Wright and other community activists are to be honored as part of a Heritage Trail. The project was originally proposed in 2009 by the Gainesville Community Reinvestment Area or CRA (formerly known as the Community Redevelopment Agency). The project has recently been revived as part of a strategic planning initiative where the CRA has engaged residents and others through a series of public meetings. The Trail has been part of the dialogue.Unfortunately, one of the city’s most significant civil rights era landmarks is endangered, After the church fell into a heavy state of disrepair due to inactivity and termite infestation. years of benign neglect, Old Mount Carmel Church is threatened by water intrusion and dilapidation. Prayers by Faith Family Ministries, led by Pastor Gerard Duncan, is working to stabilize and rehabilitate the building and adaptively use it as a public amenity.
Old Mount Carmel Church could once again be a place where people gather and strategize how to overcome the issues that still divide our community, racial or otherwise. The UF Historic Preservation Program and the City of Gainesville,Fl is helping to document the building’s history and assist with a vision and reuse plan.
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