Mary “Monk” Gordon and Reverend Isaac Thomas were two of the most important leaders in the Rose Hill community, fifteen miles southeast of Vicksburg. Gordon told me that her grandmother was a slave who walked from Natchez to the Rose Hill community. She and many of Gordon’s other ancestors are buried on the hillside around Rose Hill Church.
Mary Gordon often sang church hymns while working in her garden or doing housework and was deeply attached to the history of Rose Hill Church. As a young woman, she had religious visions that she interpreted as signs that she should join the church. One of these visions foretold the birth of her daughter. She also sang a parody of preachers entitled “You Shall Be Free.” When she sang it for me, she asked that I not let Reverend Thomas hear it.
Reverend Isaac Thomas lived in Vicksburg and preached at Rose Hill Church on the first Sunday of every month. He served four churches by preaching in one each Sunday of the month. During his childhood he preached funerals for animals that died, so it was only natural that as an adult he entered the ministry. He was the last in a line of preachers who served Rose Hill Church for over 150 years. After his death, the church was used primarily for funerals of deceased members who are buried in its cemetery.
These interviews were recorded in 1974 during the filming of Two Black Churches. Mary Gordon spoke on the porch of the home of her stepmother, Amanda Gordon, and Reverend Thomas spoke from his chair behind the pulpit in Rose Hill Church.