African American Studies


Reverend Joseph Metz Rollins, Jr. was born 8 September 1926 in Newport News, Virginia. He graduated high school in 1943. Although Reverend Rollins remembers that “even though I was in a segregated situation, I grew up being encouraged to participated and be involved…” (Pg. 5). During World War Two, Rev. Rollins entered the Jay C. Smith Seminary. He was ordained in 1950 as a Presbyterian minister, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

In 1953, In Tallahassee, Florida, Rev. Rollins helped with the organization of the Southern Presbyterian Church. He met Martin Luther King, Jr. After two girls were arrested following their refusal to go to the back of a bus, Rev. Rollins actively supported the bus boycott that followed and the students of Florida A&M.

As a member of the National Committee of Black Churchmen, Rev. Rollins moved to White Plains, New York and was the minister of St Augustine Presbyterian Church. Rev. Rollins succeeded Elder Hawkins. Although he did not live in the Bronx, Rev. Rollins visited the borough daily—acting as a mentor to Elizabeth McGee’s father, who would become a judge. He remembers a lack of political representation for African Americans, the building of Forest Neighborhood and his participation with the organizations the South Bronx Churches and Bronx Shepherds. Rev. Rollins discusses the city’s declaration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and his participation in the dedication event noting, “it was an empty thing, you know, and I promised myself after that, that I would never participate in anything like that…” (Pg. 7).

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