It was Black & White at Bamber Bridge

The US seems to be imploding, with news reports resembling the many dystopian films set in America’s 2020s and 30s. Riots and violent protests in the wake of a black detainee’s death by the knee of a white police officer have sparked a powder keg of resentment. Many businesses and demonstrators have been retweeting or sharing the Black Lives Matter hashtag.

‘Being American’ is not a racial or ethnic status, unlike Englishness or Germanicness. A national narrative based upon immigration and freedom from a foreign power ought to unite the shades of colour and ethnicity. For the most part it does. Yet for black Americans, slavery’s long shadow blocks out the warm glow of the American sun.

Interestingly, an incident took place not many miles from our chapel at Bamber Bridge this month back in 1943. US forces were stationed in Britain, and their fetid culture of racism came with them. The all-black 1511th Quartermaster Truck Regiment was stationed in what was then a village south of Preston. At Ye Old Hob Inn public house, an altercation occurred between black servicemen and Military Police regarding correct dress. It escalated, with bottles thrown at the police vehicle, and the MP returning with reinforcements. Shots were exchanged, one was killed and several more injured. 32 soldiers were convicted by court martial of seizing weapons and staging mutiny, but the police were criticised for their racially aggravated attitudes towards the black soldiers. It is a sad fact that while the Americans were in Europe fighting the horrors of Nazism, they brought with them old Jim Crow, the whiff of the Klan and the spirit of the old plantation. The following inquiry reformed the army and improved the lot of black soldiers.

Interesting was the reaction of the local Lancastrians. To their credit, they supported the blacks in Ye Old Hob, though naturally fled when the violence erupted. The local bank has bullet holes in its walls; coming from the Battle of Bamber Bridge one might be forgiven for thinking of Cromwell and King Charles. Rather, it was an American civil war fought on our soil. Harold Pullin recalled that the military leadership requested the imposition of a ‘color ban’ on the town, segregating black from white, much as they had back home, and Apartheid South Africa was then gleefully enacting. The three local publicans complied: ‘Black Troops Only’ went up above their doors.

God made humans to be of different races; our diversity only speaks of His creative genius and love of variety. Those who despise a man for his colour or ethnic heritage despise His Creator.

And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.

Acts 17: 26-27

Image by Wolfgang Eckert from Pixabay