Category: History

Protector from Lynching: the Powerful Protection of the Mother of God

“Fifteen thousand people were gathered outside. Jacob Campbell, sheriff of Grant County, had threatened to shoot into the crowd if it didn’t disperse, but women and children stood in the front ranks, calling his bluff. Hooded Klansmen and Marion police cleared a path through the crowd for Cameron, and when he reached the elm tree a noose was fastened around his neck. Cameron prayed silently, waiting to die. The photographer captured another image of the smiling and festive crowd.

But then they all fell silent. Cameron heard a woman’s voice: “Take this boy back. He had nothing to do with the killing and the rape.” The noose was removed from his neck, the crowd began to break up, and Cameron staggered back to the jail.”

James Cameron
Cameron in the jail cell he occupied the night of the lynching. — Johnson Publishing Company, via BuzzFeed

(Retrieved from on October 16, 2017)

James Cameron, the youth mentioned in this story, was one of our speakers at the St. Moses the Black Conference during the 1990’s. He was the last victim of an actual lynching in the United States, but lived to tell about it! When he, in his 80s, told us of this experience in the 1930s in Marion, Indiana, I asked him, “Who do you think the woman was that invisibly spoke to the crowd?” He said, “The Mother of God!”

On October 1/14 each year, Orthodox Christians celebrate the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God. In his Homily on this feast, St. Dimitri of Rostov writes,

“Truly she defends us and adorns us. She defends us when she drives far away from us visible and invisible enemies, when she frees captives from their bonds, when she delivers those tormented by unclean spirits, when she comforts the sorrowing and is the intercessor for the offended and calm haven for those driven by storms; when she feeds the hungry and visits the sick. She adorns us when she covers the shameful nakedness of our lives before God with her supreme merits, like precious garments, and abundant grace, like an inexhaustible treasure that fills our poverty and makes us acceptable in God’s eyes. She adorns us when she covers us who have no wedding garment with her garments, and makes the shameful nakedness of our souls as if unseen to the All-Seeing Eye.”

(Retrieved from on October 16, 2017)

This of course is exactly what happened to James Cameron on that fateful night of August 7, 1930, when she freed this captive from his bonds, comforted the sorrowing youth and interceded for the offended! Once again the ugly head of racial violence and hatred has emerged in the United States. Yet the calmer of spiritual storms, the Birthgiver of God, Mary, the Ever-Virgin, is waiting for our prayers. As she helped James Cameron then, she is desirous of helping all that are troubled and afflicted in our turbulent days.

Consider these words from the Akathist (the service prayed while standing) to the Protection of the Mother of God:

Rejoice, Thou who dost save us from the attacks of strangers and secret murderers.
Rejoice, Thou who dost guard us with peace and love against family quarrels and the enmities of those of our own blood.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil. (Ikos 9)

(Retrieved from on October 16, 2017)

In this same akathist, there are prayers for so many ills and troubles. All she is waiting for is for us to ask!

In his homily for the feast, St. Dimitri concludes:

Thus, we celebrate the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos Virgin, remembering her most glorious appearance in the Blachernae church, seen by Sts. Andrew and Epiphanios. We celebrate, giving thanks to our Protectress for her great mercy shown to the Christian race, and we earnestly pray to her that she would now and always prayerfully protect us who seek her protection. We pray, because without her protection it would be impossible for us, who continually anger God, to live. Sinning over and over again, we are likewise subjected to many punishments according to the words of the Psalmist: Many are the scourges of the sinner (Ps. 31:10). We would have perished long ago for our iniquities if the merciful Sovereign Lady had not interceded for us: “If we had not had Thee ever interceding for us, who would have delivered us from so many dangers, who would have kept us free until now?”

Let us then pray this wonderful akathist. Let us ask for the healing of our nation, for the reconciliation of strife, the deliverance of those that are oppressed, mercy for our many sins, wisdom for our leaders, and for the Protection of this Holy Intercessor, who even now is helping us. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Hieromonk Alexii Altschul
Holy Archangel Michael and All Angels Skete;
A monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church

March 11, 1965 – Selma, Alabama

“I came to this memorial service because I believe this is an appropriate occasion not only to dedicate myself as well as our Greek Orthodox communicants to the noble cause for which our friend, the Reverend James Reeb, gave his life; but also in order to show our willingness to continue this fight against prejudice, bias, and persecution. In this God-given cause, I feel sure that I have the full and understanding support of our Greek Orthodox faithful of America. For our Greek Orthodox Church and our people fully understand from our heritage and our tradition such sacrificial involvements. Our Church has never hesitated to fight, when it felt it must, for the rights of mankind; and many of our Churchmen have been in the forefront of these battles time and again… .

The ways of God are not always revealed to us, but certainly His choice of this dedicated minister to be the victim of racial hatred and the hero of this struggle to gain unalienable constitutional rights for those American brethren of ours who are denied them, and to die, so to speak, on this battlefield for human dignity and equality, was not accidental or haphazard. Let us seek out in this tragedy a divine lesson for all of us. The Reverend Reeb felt he could not be outside the arena of this bitter struggle, and we, too, must feel that we cannot. Let his martyrdom be an inspiration and a reminder to us that there are times when we must risk everything, including life itself, for those basic American ideals of freedom, justice, and equality, without which this land cannot survive. Our hope and prayer, then, is that we may be given strength to let God know by our acts and deeds, and not only by our words, that like the late Reverend James Reeb, we, too, are the espousers and the fighters in a struggle for which we must be prepared to risk our all.”

– Archbishop Iakovos