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Decades before Jacob Blake became a symbol of the civil rights movement, his grandfather worked for social justice in Region
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Decades before Jacob Blake became a symbol of the civil rights movement, his grandfather worked for social justice in Region

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Decades before Jacob Blake became the latest face of the Black Lives Matter movement, his grandfather — the late Rev. Jacob Blake — was working for social justice in Northwest Indiana.

Williams Fair, 84, a church trustee and longtime member of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Gary's Midtown neighborhood, remembers the elder Blake from his tenure at the church.

“I think (today’s social justice action) is a fitting tribute to Rev. Blake’s early involvement in civil rights and his mentoring of youth,” said Fair, who joined the A.M.E. church as a teen and has been a member for 71 years.

The younger Blake, 29, was shot seven times in the back by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23, and is now paralyzed from the waist down as a result.

The shooting, captured on a bystander’s video, has sparked outrage and reignited a national debate about treatment of black men by police.

Fair said the elder Blake served in Region churches from the late 1950s until the early 1960s.  

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The elder Blake served as a youth minister in Gary and then pastor with the St. Luke A.M.E. Church in East Chicago He was also a pastor with St. James A.M.E. Church in Chicago.

At St. Luke, Blake worked in the late 1950s to expand the city’s youth church programs, with the construction of a new park near the church, according to The Times archives.

“He was a very outgoing person and a keen interest in the youth of the entire area,” Fair said.

Before Blake’s death in 1976, he became pastor of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Evanston, where he led his congregation in the construction of Ebenezer Primm Towers in Evanston, a 107-unit apartment building for low- to moderate-income senior citizens, according to Blake’s death notice in area newspapers.

As Ebenezer’s pastor, Blake quickly became active in the civil rights movement.

“I think that with what is going on this country, (the late Blake) would hang his head in shame that it’s come to this. There’s so little respect for human life these days, and of course, for black lives,” Fair said. 

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North Lake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting from UIS. Contact her at lauren.cross@nwi.com or 219-933-3206.

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