Over four years later, on April 9, 1865, the war ended with the surrender of Southern general Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House. Ninety years later, when I was nine years old in Greenville, the enforced segregation was almost absolute: drinking fountains, public restrooms, public schools, public swimming pools, bus seating, housing, restaurants, hospital waiting rooms, dentist waiting rooms, bus station waiting rooms, and—with their own kind of enforcement—churches, including mine. I can tell you from the inside that, for all the rationalized glosses, it was not “separate but equal.” It was not respectful, it was not just, it was not loving, and therefore it was not Christian. It was ugly and demeaning. And, as we will see, because of my complicity I have much to be sorry about.
Which is one reason this book focuses so heavily on the gospel of Jesus Christ. I owe my life and hope to the gospel. Without it I would still be strutting with racist pride, or I would be suffering the moral paralysis of “white guilt.” But the gospel has an answer to both pride and guilt. I hope this book makes that plain.