THE MEETING AT MOUNT ZION
By Uriah J. Fields
Uriah J. Fields' response to the article, Theatrical Review: The Meeting at Mount Zion by Charles P. Everett, IV, written by Dr. Joyce Marsh Perry Edwards that was published in the "A.M.E. Quarterly Review. (October, 2013).
Featured in the "A.M.E. Zion Quarterly Review" (October, 2013), is an article by Joyce Marsh Perry Edwards in which she states:
"The Meeting at Mount Zion," is a play written by Charles P. Everett, IV, President of the Board of Director of the Mount Zion Center Foundation, and adapted for stage by the Reverend Dr. Wendy Coleman, Chair of Alabama State University Department of Theatre Arts.
The Meeting at Mount Zion references the meeting held on the afternoon of December 5, 1955, four days after Rosa Parks was arrested for having refused to give her bus seat to a white person. It was also the day of her trial when that morning she was found guilty and fined for having violated Alabama's segregation laws.
Nearly everyone who attended The Meeting at Mount Zion that afternoon had been present for the Parks' trial. The meeting was held to determine what strategy African Americans should employ to address the issue of the mistreatment of African American bus riders and to determine whether or not the one-day old boycott of Montgomery's buses staged on the day of Parks' trial should be extended and to discuss what recommendations leaders would offer the people attending the first mass meeting of the bus boycott that evening at the Holt Street Baptist Church, Rev. A.W. Wilson, pastor, by more than 3,000 people.
The Meeting of Mount Zion was held at Mt.Zion A.M.E. Zion Church, Reverend L.Roy Bennett, pastor. The eighteen persons, most of them ministers, attending the meeting founded the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and elected Rev. Martin Luther, King, Jr., president, Rev.Bennett, vice president, Rev. Uriah J. Fields, recording secretary, E. D. Nixon, Treasurer, Rev. Edward N. French, corresponding secretary and Mrs. Erna Allen Dungee, financial secretary. Rev. King appointed Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, (who offered the name for the new organization), chairman of the Resolutions and Recommendations Committee and charged member of the committee to draw-up resolutions that would be presented to those attending the mass meeting that evening who would be asked to vote on the resolutions and recommendations. It is needless to say that the discussion at Mount Zion was serious and at times heated. Some participants felt that if the bus boycott was not extended, there would be a better opportunity to negotiate with city officials. Some feared not only for themselves but for their parishioners. Without giving more details suffice that I say only the majority of those attending the meeting agreed that the one-day old bus boycott should continue.
On July 26, 2013, I was present at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre when the stage play of The Meeting at Mount Zion was presented at the Quadrennial Lay Convention of the A.M.E. Zion Connectional Lay Council that was meeting in Montgomery. After the play ended I was presented by Director Everett and asked to give remarks. I congratulated him and all those who produced the play. In my remarks I emphasized the significance of the play, especially for people who were not yet born during the bus boycott.
The production was riveting and showed how African Americans organized to battle segregation successfully. Edwards' article states, and I quote:
Comparison of the script of the play with the eyewitness recollection by the Reverend Uriah J. Fields, the first recording secretary of the group reveals that the play artistically informs the audience of the dynamics and most salient issues during the organization meeting... . The script and Reverend Fields' record convey that the founding group was aware that the work of the MIA should not be a footnote in history, but should be significant in the struggle for African Americans' freedom.
Something often overlooked is the fact that it was at The Meeting at Mount Zion that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in being elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association was provided with his first opportunity to lead a Civil Rights organization that enabled him to become the chief Civil Rights leader in America for the next 13 years, until he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He was only 26 years old when he was elected president of the MIA and became the leader of the successful 381-day long bus boycott. During his leadership Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted three Civil Rights Acts, the latter one one week after he was assassinated.
I am in agreement with the closing paragraph in Edwards' article:
... the presentation of 'The Meeting at Mt, Zion' should not be limited to Montgomery or to restore the Mt. Zion building or even to inform the community about a segment of our history that shouldn't be forgotten. It is worthy on its artistic merits and deserves to be produced for the Broadway stage.
In closing, I take this opportunity to again express my thanks to Director Charles P. Everett, IV as I did in person on July 26, 2013, for having provided leadership for producing The Meeting at Mount Zion and commend Dr. Edwards for writing an excellent article about this riveting play.
About the Author
URIAH J. FIELDS was a founder and original secretary of the Montgomery Improvement Association. During the bus boycott he was pastor of the Bell Street Baptist Church that was bombed during the bus boycott and rebuilt during his pastoral leadership. While residing in Montgomery he received the Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree in Education from Alabama State College (now University). He is author of, Inside the Montgomery Bus Boycott: My Personal Story.
Copyright 2013 by Uriah J. Fields