Founded in 1864 in New Bern, North Carolina by James Walker Hood, St. Andrews Chapel was the first church in the state and in the South to join the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. In 1879 the congregation changed its name to St. Peter’s African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and built a new frame. After the church burned down in 1922, it was rebuilt in stages from 1923 until 1940, and in 1997, St. Peter’s was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

St. Peter’s had been a center of civil rights since its founding, often serving as a meeting place for civil right efforts. On Sunday, January 24, 1965, the church was the scene of a five-county National Association for the Advancement Colored People (NAACP) rally on school integration. The main speaker at the January 24th rally was Julius LeVonne Chambers. A Civil Rights activist, Chambers (1936-2013), was best known for his work with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF).

Two cars parked outside St. Peter’s the night of the integration meeting, one belonging to Jones county NAACP president Carolina Beacher Chadwick, Jr. (1928-2021) and the other to Chamber’s were bombed with dynamite placed under each car. About an hour later, dynamite was also placed at Oscar’s Mortuary that same day ripping up the driveway and breaking the windows in an ambulance shed. After the racially motivated bombings, it was noted in an FBI report, that The Black Panthers came to New Bern to provide protection.

Three members of the Ku Klux Klan, Raymond Mills, Laurie Fillingame, and Edward Fillingame targeted and bombed the two cars outside of St. Peter’s and Oscar’s Mortuary. The three were arrested for the three bombings. According to the enclosed court documents from June 2, 1965, Raymond Mills and Laurie Fillingame received five-year jail sentences that were reduced to three years probation; Edward Fillingame received a two-year jail sentence that was also reduced to three years probation. Raymond Mills also had to pay restitution to Julius Chambers and Carolina B. Chadwick in the amounts of $379.64 and $152.24, respectively.

Adapted from an essay submitted with historical marker application by Rosanne Wilson.

Image: St. Peter's AME Zion Church. Courtesy of African American Heritage and Culture Center of New Bern.


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