• U.S.

Religion: Embattled Koinonia

3 minute read

A Georgia grand jury finally got around to investigating Koinonia Farm, the famed interracial community near Americus. After twelve years of peaceful existence, rumors began to fly with the Supreme Court’s 1954 desegregation decision that there was “sex mixing” at the farm and that it harbored Communist spies. The jury’s 16-page report revived the old accusations, also charged that Koinonia was masquerading as a religious group to avoid payment of taxes and that the violence was largely perpetrated by the farm members themselves as a bid for sympathy. (Koinonia answered back with an eleven-page, point-by-point refutation of the jury’s report.) By and large, the jury had to concede that no law was being violated by the Koinonians.

But Koinonia’s neighbors went right on as before, following a pattern of harassment that has been growing ever since last year (TIME, Sept. 17), when the unsegregated, pacifist Christian families of the 1,100-acre farm began to feel the sting of terror and the weight of boycott by local merchants. After the first blows, 13 Negroes and nine whites left the farm, but 36 whites and two Negroes stayed. The terror mounted.

The Citizens Bank of Americus refused to grant Koinonia more loans; the gas supplier for the farm’s heating and cooking, the hardware dealer, the tractor dealer, and the mechanic who serviced the farm vehicles refused to do business with Koinonia. The farm’s gas tank was shot up, its roadside produce stand (with cold-storage and meat-processing equipment) was dynamited and destroyed. The main building on an adjoining farm owned by the community was burned to the ground, and later twelve shotgun blasts were fired into the farm, showering some of the Koinonia children with pellets. One Sunday a 78-car motorcade of 153 robed and hooded Klansmen drove into Americus just after church, held a demonstration at the fairgrounds, then disrobed and went out to Koinonia to urge the community to move. Last week Koinonia’s president, Virginia-born Norman Long, 32, still a member of the Baptist Church, and Clarence Jordan, 44, were planning a move that looked to some like the beginning of retreat. Koinonia will open a branch farm at Neshanic Station, N.J. Jordan insisted that this is no retreat; the Northern farm will be used chiefly as a rest center for Koinonians with “battle fatigue.” Said Norman Long: “There’s no value in thinking what may happen. We are simply living our lives from day to day. The issues at stake are so great that we cannot allow ourselves to give up.”

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