Jacob Blake III, the 29-year-old father of six, who was shot seven times by Wisconsin police on August 23, 2020, has a family history of involvement in the civil rights movement in Evanston, IL. Before the Black Lives Matter Movement, Jacob Blake’s grandfather, the late Rev. Jacob S. Blake, Sr. was an active voice in the Evanston community and his congregation. The Rev. Jacob S. Blake, Sr. was born in Portsmouth, VA. He graduated from Indiana University and North Carolina State University. Blake ran for state representative in Indiana, in 1948, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He left politics and pursued ministry. Blake served as pastor at the St. Luke A.M.E. Church in East Chicago, IN, where he expanded the youth program, St. James A.M.E. Church in Chicago, where he managed the new church building and grew the congregation.
In 1967, Rev. Jacob S. Blake became pastor of Ebenezer A.M.E Church, Evanston’s first black church founded on October 30, 1882. “The appointment was seen as a crowning achievement because it was a well-respected position and reserved for tenure pastors,” Taurean Webb, the director of the Center for the Church and Black Experience at the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, told a local paper. When Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, Blake led a march that drew 3,000 in his memory. That march protested civil rights and racial discrimination in Evanston over fair housing for the black community. Evanston has a long history of redlining and housing discrimination that continues today.
Rev. Jacob Blake and his congregation built the Ebenezer Primm Towers, a 107-unit apartment building for low-moderate income seniors. In 2003, the church opened Jacob Blake Manor at 1615 Emerson Street to provide seniors housing. Blake passed away in 1976. Patricia Goudeau Blake, the widow of Rev. Jacob S. Blake and grandmother of Jacob Blake, told a local newspaper that she hopes the shooting, as tragic as it is, will somehow continue her family’s strong legacy in the fight for civil rights and racial equality.
Clarence Robinson, who joined the ministry with Jacob Blake, Sr., in 1958, told a local paper, “It’s shocking, he fought for a cause, and his grandson ends up being a major part of the cause because he was shot,” It saddens my heart to see where we are now after 40, 50 years.” The AME Church issued a statement calling for justice on the shooting of Jacob Blake III. “Today, we call for our friends, ecumenical partners, and people of all faiths to join the African Methodist Episcopal Church in resisting and overcoming white rage and terrorism and continue to pray for the spiritual, physical, and emotional healing of Jacob Blake, III, and his family.”
Tammy Gibson is a travel historian and blogger. Find her at www.sankofatravelher.com, Facebook, Instagram @SankofaTravelher, and Twitter @SankofaTravelHr.