Raphael Warnock, an heir to the Ebenezer Baptist Church pulpit in Atlanta—a pulpit where both my father and grandfather preached—is now the first Black person elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia. Following one of the most politically polarizing and hateful election seasons our country has seen since the days of segregationists George Wallace and Bull Connor, a Black pastor ascended to one of the highest offices in the land. His parents grew up in the Jim Crow South when Black Americans were denied the right to vote, and his mother once picked tobacco and cotton. Decades later, Congressman John Lewis—a civil rights leader who fought to end Jim Crow laws, a staunch advocate for voting rights and a member of Ebenezer—sat under the pastoral leadership of Raphael Warnock. It is no coincidence that Warnock’s rise to political power came this year, in the wake of the fall of mighty oaks of the movement—the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian and Congressman Lewis. Warnock is the answer to the prayers of our ancestors and the fruit of their labor. His election represents the dawn of a new South.
King is the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change