Pastor and Civil Rights Activist, Harry Blake, Retires

He’s been the target of an assassin’s bullet, beaten, and jailed. Newly retired pastor, Harry Blake’s fight for civil rights and for individuals in Shreveport has come with great sacrifice. After 52 years in the pulpit at Mount Canaan Missionary Baptist Church, Blake is writing a new chapter. I sat down with him for an in-depth conversation about his yesterdays and plans for tomorrow.

From the cotton fields of Northeast Louisiana, to the mission field in Shreveport, Harry Blake has lived his life with a plan.

He’s worked with Dr. Martin Luther King and his staff for 4 years and says he’s planned every stage of his life.

He was raised on Ashley plantation near this historical marker in Madison Parish. He says about growing up, his mother loved great preachers, “So one day I said to her, I’m the only preacher in the family on your side or daddy’s side. She cleared her throat and said, we still don’t have one.”

Through 5 decades as pastor of Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, 84 year old Blake is now retired just as he planned. Blake says, ” I put the plan in operation 5 years ago, I started planning to retire 20 years ago.”

But, this past April he suffered a major loss that was never a part of his plan. This was to be the year he and his wife Norma would celebrate their years of work and move into their new home, “I told her that I was going to have chickens and pigs. And what did she say to that? They’re not going to let you do that. I said, It’s not in the city limits.”

He and his wife Norma would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this past Friday, August 31st. She passed away in April.

Blake says, if  he could do his life over he would do it differently, “I don’t think God requires us as pastors to neglect family at the expense of putting the church first.”

Not only was the church first, but the broken and impoverished community in Allendale where he served. He credits Norma for filling his role as a dad especially during the times, “When I was in the civil rights movement, day and night, gone all of the time, planning demonstrations, teaching people how to vote and that I was never home.”

He also didn’t realize his sacrifice would be woven into Shreveport’s history,  even as he planned civil rights protests with Dr. Martin Luther King, “I didn’t see that as history in the making, I just saw it as a job I had to do or mission I had to fulfill. I never took a photo with Dr. King, I never took one with him.”

But, he has the battle scars: Blake was beaten, nearly killed, and arrested. He says, “That was the city’s method of taming me, calming me down. If you don’t act the way we want you to act we’re going to punish you for it.”

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SOURCE: Brenda Teele 

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