Martin Luther Bost, Age 88. Between 1936 and 1938. Retrieved from the Library of Congress (Public Domain).

Hickory – The Catawba Valley Interfaith Council will hold its annual business meeting on Thursday, June 15 at 7:00 p.m. in the fellowship hall at Exodus Missionary Outreach Church in Hickory (1763 Highland Ave NE). In addition to their regular business in which members will elect a new board and approve changes to their constitution, the meeting will feature a contextualized reading and discussion of a first-hand account of slavery in Catawba County. The public is invited to attend this free event in-person or stream it online from the group’s Facebook page.

The narrative of Martin Luther Bost, collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in 1937 as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) effort to collect narratives from the last generation of formerly enslaved people in the South, will be read by Rev. Reggie Longcrier of Exodus Missionary Outreach Church. Founding Executive Director of Exodus Homes, a faith based United Way agency that provides supportive housing for homeless recovering people returning to the community from substance abuse treatment centers and prison, Rev. Longcrier is also the chaplain of Catawba Correctional Center in Newton.

Widely available on the internet (including LibriVox audio) today, portions of Bost’s narrative were read by Ossie Davis for the 2003 HBO documentary titled “Unchained Memories.” As discussed in his narrative, Bost was enslaved in Newton and later moved to Asheville where the interview was conducted. Not included in any of our local historical narratives, Bost’s narrative was collected by the WPA during the “Jim Crow” era and contains dehumanizing language as well as disturbing graphic personal recollections about the American antebellum period and Reconstruction era.

“Juneteenth is a time to celebrate,” said Betty Lohr, CVIC President, “but it is also an opportunity to educate ourselves about the history of slavery in our own communities. This history might make some people uncomfortable, but we think it’s important that Martin Luther Bost’s story is told.”

CVIC is a local not-for-profit organization of faith-based and secular communities in the Catawba Valley serving as a catalyst for hope and cooperating for the purpose of dialogue, information sharing, and celebration. Their purpose is to create a more compassionate community and honor the rich diversity of religious, spiritual, and secular traditions in the community.

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