When The World Was Too Much To Bear, These Reminded Us Of Our Greatness

“Back then, Black churches were a small piece of peace. Church was a world where …. common humanity was the sustenance needed to make it through the rest of the week in a society that deemed them less than human.” Janelle Gray. There was one small accessory that made such peace possible.

When The World Was Too Much To Bear, These Reminded Us Of Our Greatness
Via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1920s, when our people were constantly being killed and maimed during hot summers, we turned to the church to find healing, support, and strength. But something else also helped us through these times.

Church fans. Simple pieces of cardboard stapled to wooden sticks, church fans cooled us as church services carried on for hours. But the fans' images of Black people on the fronts - for many, the first time seeing Black people portrayed positively - are what made them crucial to our culture.

Sometimes, there weren’t images at all. Advertisements for Black funeral homes and insurance companies decorated fans, driving home the fact that the church was much more than just a place of worship for our people.

Even when Black churches grew wealthier and installed air conditioning and water fountains, the fans remained. Today the fans help us encourage the preacher, enjoy our favorite songs, and express ourselves when the spirit gives us just enough strength to wave our hands.

Church fans may be a small accessory, but they continue to play a crucial part in the way we connect with God and each other. The next time you pick up a fan, know that you’re not just keeping cool. You’re taking part in a positive and cherished part of Black history.

We have a quick favor to ask...

We hope you're enjoying PushBlack Spirit! Spreading the truth about Black spiritual practices and history is just as important to you as it is to us.

And as a small non-profit, we need your support to keep spreading these important stories.

With as little as $5 a month, you will support our tech and writing costs, so we can reach even more people like you. It only takes a minue, so will you please donate now?