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Historic Brown Chapel held groundbreaking restoration

Historic Brown Chapel AME Church held a successful groundbreaking on Wednesday afternoon.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey  and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell were among the speakers at the restoration groundbreaking ceremony that included a shovel ceremony at the end.

Brown Chapel was built in 1908 and its repairs will the chapel’s facelift will include electrical work, roof work and cupola repairs.

Sewell recalled growing up in Selma and attending the church with her family. She thanked the National Park Service for its $1.3 million grant for the church’s restorations and repairs.

“It’s always good to be back in Selma,” Sewell said. “This $1.3 million grant from the National Park Service will do is to ensure that America’s story lives on, that we who are members of this great church are not alone in preserving it because this church is a part of America’s history.”

Ivey praised Brown Chapel for its role that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The love of Brown Chapel AME Church will forever be shared by our state to the world, to be a representative of doing the right thing even when it can be dangerous,” Ivey said “Brown Chapel serves as a reminder of perseverance.”

Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr., Dallas County Probate Judge Jimmy Nunn, Selma City Councilman Michael Johnson also spoke at the ceremony.

Perkins joked about praying for a breeze to come through on a sultry afternoon.

“My prayer was answered,” Perkins said.  “For all of our success and challenges, to God be all the Glory.”

Nunn said it’s always wonderful to discuss the legacy of Historic Brown Chapel AME Church.

“It’s a great day for the city of Selma to honor the headquarters for the Voting Rights Act,” Nunn said.

Johnson thanked Gov.  Ivey and Sewell for attending the ceremony.

Brown Chapel Pastor  Leodis Strong thanked Ivey, a Camden native, for attending.

“You crossed a line where others did  not have the courage to cross,” Strong told Gov. Ivey.

Montgomery-Selma District Presiding Elder Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Denson said the district circled June 23, 2021 on the calendar.

“We looked forward to this day for a while and what a great day it is,” Denson said.

Ninth Episcopal District Presiding Prelate Bishop Harry Seawright said Historic Brown Chapel remains the standard bearer for the District’s 285 churches.

“I call Brown Chapel the mother of our 285 churches,” Seawright said. “It represents the Civil Rights movement.”

Selma to Montgomery NHT Superintendent Dr.  Joy Kinard represented the National Park Service and said it’s an honor being part of the event.

Juanda Maxwell spoke passionately sharing the foundation’s history.

Dr. Leroy Maxwell, who presided over the event, presented Sewell with a plaque honoring her late mother, Nancy Sewell, a longtime member of Brown Chapel AME and 36 year teacher in Selma.

Selma City Council President Billy Young and councilwomen Jannie Thomas and Christie Thomas attended the event, as did former city councilwoman Susan Youngblood.

Former U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-AL, also attended the event.