“My dad was a Methodist preacher and his dad was a Methodist preacher,” writes John Archibald. “It goes all the way back on both sides of my family. When I am at my best, I think it comes from that sermon place.”
Everything Archibald knows and believes about life is “refracted through the stained glass of the Southern church. It had everything to do with people. And fairness. And compassion.”
In Shaking the Gates of Hell, Archibald asks: Can a good person remain silent in the face of discrimination and horror, and still be a good person?
Archibald had seen his father, the Rev. Robert L. Archibald, Jr., the son and grandson of Methodist preachers, as a moral authority, a moderate and a moderating force during the racial turbulence of the ’60s, a loving and dependable parent, a forgiving and attentive minister, a man many Alabamians came to see as a saint. But was that enough? Even though Archibald grew up in Alabama in the heart of the civil rights movement, he could recall few words about racial rights or wrongs from his father’s pulpit at a time the South seethed, and this began to haunt him.
In this moving and powerful book, Archibald writes of his complex search, and of the conspiracy of silence his father faced in the South, in the Methodist Church and in the greater Christian church. Those who spoke too loudly were punished, or banished, or worse. Archibald’s father was warned to guard his words on issues of race to protect his family, and he did. He spoke to his flock in the safety of parable, and trusted in the goodness of others, even when they earned none of it, rising through the ranks of the Methodist Church, and teaching his family lessons in kindness and humanity, and devotion to nature and the Earth.
Archibald writes of this difficult, at times uncomfortable, reckoning with his past in this unadorned, affecting book of growth and evolution.
About the Author
John Archibald is a journalist for The Birmingham News, where he has been a regular columnist since 2004. In 2018, Archibald was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama.
About the Moderator
Cynthia Tucker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist. Her weekly column, which appears in newspapers around the country, focuses on political and cultural issues, including income inequality, social justice and reform of the public education system.
Tucker has spent most of her career in newspapers, working as a reporter and editor. For seventeen years, she served as editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, overseeing the newspaper’s editorial policies on everything from local elections to foreign affairs. She also worked as a Washington-based political columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
After leaving the newspaper, she spent three years as a visiting professor at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she was also a Charlayne Hunter-Gault writer-in-residence. She is currently the journalist-in-residence at the University of South Alabama, where she teaches in the English and political science departments.
Over the course of her career, Tucker has received numerous awards and honors. Her column was a finalist for the Pulitzer in the commentary category in 2004 and 2006 before winning the prestigious honor in 2007.
In 2006, she was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. In 2011, she was inducted into the NABJ’s Hall of Fame. She has also won Colby College’s Elijah Parish Lovejoy Journalism Award; the University of Alabama’s Clarence Cason Award; the David Nyhan Prize for Political Journalism presented by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; and the Alabama Humanities Award, bestowed by the Alabama Humanities Foundation. Tucker was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2017.
A graduate of Auburn University, Tucker was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in the 1988-89 academic year. She’s a native of Monroeville, Alabama, and lives in Mobile with her 11-year-old daughter, Carly.
This virtual event is free and open to the public. Shaking the Gates of Hell is available for purchase online at A Cappella Books.
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