MVT Celebrates Black History Month
Friday February 2, 2024
Yesterday, February 1 marked the start of Black History Month, and throughout February we’ll recognize and celebrate African-American contributions to not just DC history, but American history. Today we pay tribute to William Henry Jernagin, who from 1912-1958 served as pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church (est. 1876), which along with Bible Way Church (est. 1928) and Second Baptist Church (est. 1876) have provided 420 years of continuous spiritual and civic service to our Mount Vernon Triangle community.
Born on October 13, 1869 in Mashulaville, Mississippi, Jernagin was a forceful advocate for social change. He was elected the first president of the National Race Congress in 1916 and spent six weeks touring camps and speaking to black World War I soldiers in Europe while attending the first Pan-African Race Congress in France. Jernagin was elected president of the National Fraternal Council of Negro Churches in 1937, organized the Washington Bureau of the National Fraternal Council of Negro Churches in 1940, was a delegate of the National Baptist Convention in Europe to help organize the World Council of Churches in 1948, and served as chief of chaplains for the U.S. Air Force along with 16 other American ministers in 1953 where he traveled throughout the Pacific to address thousands of troops stationed overseas. Closer to home, Jernigan along with many others protested discrimination at Thompson’s Restaurant, a case that ultimately led to the desegregation of restaurants in Washington, DC.
Jernigan’s crusade for civil rights continued until his death 1958, with thousands attending his funeral at Mount Carmel Baptist Church and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sending a message that noted: Jernigan “has given to the Baptist youth of America a leadership which will long be recorded in the annals of history. He has inspired thousands of young men and women. I will always remember the encouragement that he has given me.”
Jernagin’s life was chronicled in a 2016 book by Dr. Ida E. Jones and in 2023 his great niece, DC-based artist Aja Moon, was commissioned by Pepco to design the illustrative fence for its nearby Mount Vernon Substation—ensuring his legacy lives on in our community for decades to come.
Visit our events calendar on MountVernonTriangle.org to view of listing of events celebrating Black history in our Mount Vernon Triangle community. And please continue to engage with us throughout the month as we celebrate African-American contributions to Mount Vernon Triangle’s rich past, vibrant present, and exciting future.