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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by PRIDE Newsdesk
Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

Returning to the “Walls of the EJI (Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery) Reflection Room” to what I thought was a random pick… But God!  Mary Virginia Cook Parrish.

She was born a slave in the area of Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1862. The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage (KCAAH) records that she was awarded as a top reader and spelling bee winner.  The ‘H-Net on Kentucky History’ maintains that Dr. William J. Simmons, President of Kentucky Normal and Theological Institute (Simmons College) took notice and made it possible for her to attend. She graduated at the top of her class and continued as a professor and Principal of the normal school department at Simmons.

Mary Virginia Cook wrote for various newspapers and magazines.  In 1891 Mary was educational Editor for ‘Our Women and Children’ a family magazine for Kentucky’s black Baptists.  In 1892 she took part in the Black women’s protest on the segregation of the Trains.  She was granted time to address the Kentucky General Assembly.  In 1896 she attended the ‘National Association of Colored Women’s’ founding session’ at the 19th Street Baptist Church in Washington D.C. making her an organizing member. 

In 1898, she married Charles Henry Parrish, Pastor of Louisville’s Calvary Baptist Church.  Together they established the ‘Eckstein Norton Institute’ in Bullitt county where he became President as she took on Teaching responsibilities and secretary of the School.  As ‘First Lady of Calvary’ she was elected president of ‘Calvary’s King’s Daughters Missionary Society’ which she held for the next 45 years.  She was elected recording secretary of the’National Baptist Educational Convention’, and by 1900 Mary Cook Parrish has becomes a founder of the ‘National Baptist Women’s Convention’ AND the ‘Kentucky Association of Colored Women’ in 1903.

She is now a journalist, Church leader, mother, business woman, orator and organizer at local, state and national levels.  During the 1920 Presidential Election campaign, she canvassed Louisville neighborhoods as part of the ‘West-End Republican League of Colored Women’ to get out the vote.

I found that her descendants are keeping “theparrishlegacy.com” ALIVE!  There, is written this statement:

“In the 1930s, when Parrish learned she could not join a Parent Teacher Association in Louisville, Kentucky, she organized her own in the city’s black-only school. She refused to accept that black children were without a playground and arrived at the mayor’s office to demand one be built. Three weeks later, the children had their playground. When she brought ten little girls with her to the local YWCA, “they called the police and said you may not stay here; these children are not welcome.” She then organized a new chapter called the Phillis Wheatley (West End) YWCA. She also served as the first president of the Colored Republican’s Women’s Club in Louisville. In 1932 she served as an alternate delegate to the National Republican Convention in Chicago.”

She served for many years on the Board of Trustees for the National Training School founded by Nannie Helen Burroughs in Washington D.C.  She transitioned in 1945 and is buried next to her husband in the Louisville Cemetery on Poplar Level Road.

The search for an Article or Oratory that would give further indication of her purpose driven life ‘in her own voice’ led me to the original Colored Carnegie Library of Louisville; now the ‘Western’ Branch; restored and housing the histories of Black Louisville.  On the line, I reached a wonderful Librarian with the will to assist in this task.  He referenced finding her, first, in the “Louisville Defender” newspaper of Black Louisville.  I received 3 Articles by email from which I could see that much of her work has been rolled over into the work of her husband and son and is preserved as the “Charles Henry Parrish Jr. Papers, University of Louisville Archives.

Folk always talking about what “they were not taught in school”.  This part, right here… is ‘Knowledge’!  Who even knew?  Can you hear me now:  “Knowledge is Biblical. Education is not.” (Me).  For “If my people are destroyed for lack of Knowledge”, then by now it stands to reason and guiding Biblical principle that: “Knowledge IS LIFE”.  (Credit can only be given to God!  The Creator and Sustainer of… LIFE).

All inquiries By email: talk2therev@icloud.com “Words of Life Study” Wednesdays on Zoom.  12:00 Noon & 6:30 pm CST Join the Dialogue at my “Swellcast”.  At all times: https://SWELLCAST.com/therev

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