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Negro Baptists of North Carolina


        The Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of North Carolina was organized in Goldsboro, N. C., in the year 1867. There were present at this organization Revs. Edward Eagles, C. Johnson, William Warwick, L. W. Boone, B. B. Spicer, H. Grimes, John Washington, Charles Bryant, Sutton Davis and R. H. Harper. To have seen these few fathers gathered with no experience in Christian work, recently emerged from slavery, no money, brush arbors and log churches in most cases, should cause the Baptist hosts of after years to look with supreme admiration and gratitude upon the sacrifices and arduous labors of the "fathers in Israel." We have been informed that there were a few of our white Baptist brethren in attendance at this first meeting of their colored brethren and helped them to plan the organization and advise for its future operation. It was evident that the organization of churches was imperatively necessary, and this the new organization determined to do. With the few ministers in the Convention and in the State, it was further evident that "more laborers were needed in the Master's vineyard," and for this the brethren earnestly prayed. In some sections it has been charged that the colored Baptists fostered ignorance, but as an argument to the contrary in this first organization the purchase of suitable books was urged, and an intelligent ministry as the greatest necessity.

        All the ministers present were authorized to do missionary work in their immediate vicinity, and as extensively as their opportunities would allow. Although the beginning was meager and such as to dishearten and discourage weaker men, these fathers were by no means daunted. They had strong faith in God, and He in His all-wise Providence permitted many of them to see a wonderful development and growth before He took them hence to their eternal reward.

        From the beginning the negro Baptists of North Carolina have felt that their white brethren, with superior advantages, could be of substantial aid to them in their religious and moral development, and they invited representatives to meet with them even in their organization of the Convention. In the annual meeting of the white Baptists at Wilmington in 1867 the request was granted; the brethren were present and rendered valuable service, bidding Godspeed to their colored brethren.

        From that day there existed ever afterward the kindliest and most friendly relations between the two Conventions in North Carolina, the white brethren often going to considerable sacrifice to serve them with advice, with instruction and with their money.

        As early as 1865, immediately following the bitter

struggle in arms between the North and the South, they seemed to have lost sight of the fact that the Negroes had been their slaves, and, together with their Northern brethren, despite their poverty and discouragement, growing out of the bloody contest in arms, they sought every opportunity to do the colored brother assistance.

        The records of the white Baptists will show that a resolution was passed in their first Convention following the Emancipation, which reads as follows:

        "The brethren realize that a new responsibility is thrust upon them by the emancipation of the slaves, and pledge themselves to do all in their power for the religious and educational development of the Negro." 1876. "We would urge upon our pastors and churches the importance of prosecuting, so far as possible, the work of giving religious instruction to the colored people among us, and we request our mission and Sunday School brothers, as far as practicable, to give aid in organizing and expanding among their Sunday School and church privileges."

        This was further shown in the struggle of North Carolina colored Baptists to maintain the principle of cooperation with the religious bodies; the white Baptists of the State stood firmly by them with their moral and financial support. While the plan of cooperation emanated from the North, the Southern white brother was ripe for such helpfulness, even prior to the plan.

        A resolution passed in the white convention, Goldsboro, and $500 was appropriated to conduct Institutes for the colored Baptists of the State.

        With all the aid which came to the Negro Baptists of North Carolina, with ignorance, poverty and discouragement staring them in the face, and with conditions as the results of war, and a people set free with no homes, clotheless and often foodless, their struggles were often bitter and disappointing.

        They had only the assurance that they were building upon a sure foundation--the eternal word of God; and like the Apostle to the Gentile world they rejoiced that they were "counted worthy to suffer affliction" for the cause which had brought to them light, life and salvation, and they meant as best they could to blaze their way through the dense wilderness, and tell the story which has since made many thousand rejoice together with them.

        For many years comparatively little was accomplished. The growth was necessarily slow, but sure.

        The annual reports were informal, and yet these annual meetings were often attended with great spiritual awakenings.

        It may be said of the Convention, for thirty years after its organization it was a period of construction.

        In many of the rude structures, about which mention has been made, great revivals broke out and souls were brought into the church by the thousands and tens of thousands.

        It was a feast at the close of each conventional year to hear these fathers and pioneers of the Convention telling of the presence of God in their early revival meetings.

        Rev. John Washington was the first missionary sent out by the Convention. There were others whom we have mentioned laboring for the Publication Society. It is claimed that Rev. E. E. Eagles, the first missionary of the Publication Society, organized the Convention. If not, he was a great stimulus to the work, having superior advantages over most of his brethren. Rev. F. R. Howell was the second.

        Rev. Howell's services as missionary added much strength and force to the Convention. Especially did his reports give the much needed information respecting the field, and caused extension of missions into unknown sections of the State.

        The Convention was so stimulated and enthused through the work done and the reports of Rev. Howell until they were encouraged to appoint Rev. P. F. Maloy to succeed him as their missionary.

        While Rev. Maloy was not faultless, he had superior advantages over Rev. Howell, and in many respects proved to be an ideal missionary. The appointment of these men was in the line of that Providence which was shaping the Convention for great future usefulness.

        The work of the missionary was by no means so definite as in after years, and possibly it was well that it should not have been, as it left room for that

service so necessary to meet the demand of that early stage.

        Rev. A. B. Vincent came in just previous to the "Plan of cooperation." During a part of his time, as we have mentioned, the white Baptists made appropriations which were supplemented by the colored Convention, and some of the leading colored brethren volunteered their services in connection with the regular missionary, which greatly assisted him in the preparation of the different sections for the splendid gift of cooperation. It may be said, too, even prior to the appropriation of the white brethren the colored people in some sections realized the necessity of a better and a more united ministry and formed Institutes. We recall especially such meetings held by the brethren in and about Warrenton, Louisburg and in other places. Rev. T. J. Taylor, the pastor of the white Baptist Church of Warrenton, attended all of these meetings, and it was doubtless his acquaintance with the plan which led to the resolution which he offered in the Goldsboro Convention appropriating $500 to this kind of work among the colored people.

        Just as the Biblical Recorder was the greatest means of organizing and strengthening the white Baptists, and which did more than all the agencies to make them what they were, so different papers representing the colored Baptists proved the same efficient means of shaping, developing and making them what they became in after years.

        At different times the Gold Dust, the Baptist Headlight, the African Expositor, the Chowan Pilot and the Baptist Sentinel.

        It was unfortunate that there were so many papers, but under the circumstances these papers would but blossom, bear an early fruitage and then die. The Baptist Sentinel, like the others, though passing through biting frosts and bitter cold, came into existence to live; and despite circumstances did live, not only strengthening the State Convention, but all other organizations throughout the State which were intended for the betterment of the Baptist cause; while the annual collections of the Convention increased and many other improvements, both in point of increasing membership and better plans of work, but there was nothing like the proper organization of the forces until the meeting of the Convention at Garysburg. It was there through the plan drawn up by Dr. A. W. Pegues that the Convention organized itself into Boards which proved greatly in advance of any plan which had before been tried. The work of the Boards greatly paved the way to the plan of cooperation which soon came into existence. The death of Rev. Z. Horton was announced at the Garysburg meeting. Rev. Horton was one of the pioneers of the Baptist work of North Carolina. Suitable resolutions were passed.

        An effort was on foot at this time to raise twenty-five thousand dollars, an endowment to the presidency of Shaw University. Dr. N. F. Roberts, Prof. S. N. Vass and Prof. A. B. Vincent canvassed the State in the interest of this project.

        The Convention gave liberal contributions to this fund. It was in the Oxford meeting that the plan of cooperation was submitted and voted upon by the Convention. There was comparatively no opposition to the plan.

        The general missionary and the three district missionaries were voted upon and accepted by the Convention, and the wheels set in motion for that forward movement which meant more to North Carolina than all the efforts of its past thirty years. With four of the Convention's ablest men going from place to place throughout the State, doing special missionary work, holding Ministerial Institutes, and doing house to house service, it could not serve otherwise than produce wonderful improvements and changes. It was soon evident that the colored Baptists would make history for themselves, and correct the oft-repeated story that the "Negro Baptists had no men of note." The missionary was hailed with delight in sections where he dare not go before, and it could be said in reality that the wilderness was blossoming as the rose. The fact that the great Home Mission Society of New York, the Southern Baptist Convention, with headquarters in Atlanta, and the white Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, together with the colored Convention, were behind these men, not only gave to them financial support but moral support as well; besides greatly stimulating the men themselves, and enabled them to do a work they could not otherwise have done.

        To them it was not a question of where their salary was coming from, it was provided for in the plan. It was theirs to do their work, to do it proficiently, and at the close of each quarter and of each year to render accurate reports of work done and results as far as they were able to gather them. The results were good as evidenced on every hand. Not only did the missionary see them but the most casual observer.

        Possibly no better example could be furnished than in Lumberton, where the Baptist people simply leaped into prominence materially, morally and spiritually. Not only were the colored people led to rejoice for splendid harvests and for the broad foundation, laid through their work, but their white brethren throughout the State, the North and the South rejoiced with them. The colored brother was so awakened, not only to his own advancement, but rejoiced as he read the annual reports of the white Convention at their constant and decided growth.

        It was not surprising at the close of the three years that the vote in all the cooperating bodies should have been so unanimous for 'three years more of cooperation."

        The thirty-third annual session of the Convention was held in the First Baptist Church of Rocky Mount, N. C., Dr. A. Shepard, of Durham, N. C., presiding. Dr. H. L. Morehouse, of New York City, representing the American Baptist Home Mission Society; Dr. W. M. Alexander, of Baltimore, representing the Lott-Carey Convention, and Dr. J. M. Armstead, of Portsmouth, representing the Baptists of Virginia, were present and made able speeches on the special objects they came to represent. After the speech of Dr. Morehouse on Cooperation, which had been prosecuted in the State for three years, the Convention unanimously voted to continue the work for three years more, pledging its loyal support. The Convention also voted to assume the responsibility of a teacher in the Theological Department of Shaw University. The report of the treasurer showed that two thousand, six hundred and twenty-four dollars had been raised during the year.

        The new year began with bright hopes; the Convention appointed Rev. R. B. Watts, of Wilkesboro, to labor in the western and mountain section of the State, with instructions to give as much time as practicable to the section of the State beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains.

        Rev. C. C. Somerville, who had labored so successfully as District Missionary for Eastern North Carolina, sent in his resignation to take effect October 1, 1899. His place was filled by the appointment of Rev. W. T. H. Woodward, of Littleton, N. C.

        In the New Bern Convention, at the St. John's Church, Dr. C. F. Meserve made an able plea in behalf of Shaw University, and Rev. John E. White, the Corresponding Secretary of the Baptist State

Convention (white), made a great talk as he usually did at the annual Conventions, on the subject "Strengthen the things that remain." Dr. White never lost an opportunity to help the colored people, and especially the colored Baptists of North Carolina, and he as no other man always made a profound impression on our Conventions.

        The saintly Miss Joanna P. Moore, of Nashville, Tenn., was also present, and since she had done more than they all in behalf of the colored people, not only in one respect, but in all that pertained to their general uplift, like her blessed Savior, who gave His very life for humanity. The Convention heard her with breathless silence and appreciation. The Ministerial Union, which had been organized many years previous and had gone down, was revived at this meeting with Rev. R. H. Harper, of LaGrange, President; Rev. W. R. Mason, of Weldon, Vice-President; and Rev. S. H. Witherspoon, Secretary. The amount of the annual collections had increased a thousand dollars over the previous year. The Convention changed the time of the annual meeting from October to November, just one month later. This was an unusual year for the colored Baptists as well as for the colored people of all the denominations; especially in the eastern section of the State. A political upheaval such as the State had not known before was felt everywhere, and much of the enthusiasm of previous years was lost; many of the colored people as a result moved to other States, and hence the work so fairly under way was greatly retarded. And yet, according to the opinion of many men of eminence of the opposite race, cooperation in the State at such a time was providential and a great blessing. Such able representatives as the Convention had in the field and representatives of the two races, often brought together as they were in the meetings held over the State, kept up a better understanding than would have prevailed, and hence did much to remove the bitterness and friction which doubtless would have otherwise been manifest. If this was true, and we have reason to believe it was, if cooperation had done no more than allay race feeling, which was already exceedingly harmful to both races, that of itself would have been worth the amount of money expended for its maintenance. Rev. D. J. Moore, of Emerson, N. C., and Rev. A. Ellis, of Waco, N. C., were appointed to labor respectively in the southern and western sections of the State in behalf of the Convention.

        Dr. C. L. P. Taliaferro, of Philadelphia, Editor of the Christian Banner, and Rev. I. Toliver, of Washington, D. C., were in attendance at the next annual session of the Convention at Franklinton, and were elected honorary members. A. W. Pegues, J. A. Whitted, E. E. Smith, C. Johnson, C. S. Brown and I. W. Holden were appointed a committee to petition the Legislature in its session following in behalf of a reformatory for youthful criminals of the colored race.

        Rev. John E. White, about whom reference has already

been made, had received a call to the Second Baptist Church of Atlanta, Ga., gave his farewell address to his colored brethren, and those who were so fortunate as to hear that address will never forget the impression it made on the Convention.

        Following this meeting of the Convention Rev. P. F. Maloy, who had been the Western District Missionary since cooperation had been inaugurated, accepted the call to the Friendship Baptist Church of Charlotte, N. C., and was succeeded by Rev. G. O. Bullock, who proved to be eminently successful in putting new life, interest and confidence in the work throughout the entire West.

        Like his predecessor Rev. Livingston Johnson, the Corresponding Secretary of the white Convention, met the Convention in its annual session at Lumberton. Rev. Johnson soon convinced his brethren that he was indeed a worthy successor of a great and good man. It was in the Lumberton Convention that efforts were put forth to bring about a closer union between the Educational and Missionary Convention and the Woman's Convention. Representatives of both Conventions met and held conferences on plans for a closer union. One of the plans adopted was to have a board of supervisors appointed by the Educational and Missionary Convention, whose duty it should be to advise the women in their work. A. Shepard, A. B. Vincent, J. R. Cozart, G. W. Moore and C. C. Somerville were appointed a committee to represent the Convention in the Negro Young People's Congress to be held in the interim of the Convention in Atlanta, Ga.

        The report of the treasurer showed that six thousand eight hundred and eighty-one dollars had been raised for the different objects of the Convention during the year, which was an evidence of the rapid growth of the colored Baptists of North Carolina.

        The Negro Young People's Congress, which met in Atlanta in August of that year, was by far the greatest gathering of intelligent Negroes known in the world's history. A fair estimate placed the number at eight thousand. This was a splendid opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the Negro Baptists, not only of North Carolina, but of the United States. The place they filled on the program and in the Convention bore evidence of their superior standing in the entire race of the country. This fact gave them much inspiration and encouragement. The plan of cooperation contemplated smaller appropriations from the white organizations cooperating with the colored Baptists, which necessitated larger appropriations from the colored people themselves. Realizing the great good which the plan had brought to the cause the brethren rallied manfully. Their educational work, which had too increased their burdens, made it but the harder to support the cooperative work, but they kept good their obligations, and thereby increased the confidence of their white brethren, North and South. Eight thousand dollars were reported in the Durham Convention, which exceeded any report previously made. This did not include the amounts raised for educational purposes. It was always difficult to get an accurate report from the different associations as it was well-nigh impossible to get all the associations in the State to report to the Convention. Some out of opposition, some from indifference and several because of the spirit only to foster and support objects at their doors. Rev. W. T. H. Woodward, failing in health, resigned as District Missionary for Eastern North Carolina. Like Dr. Somerville, Rev. Woodward did a lasting work in the eastern section of the State, and brought many in touch with the work who had not previously supported it. Rev. D. J. Avera, of Lumberton, N. C., was appointed to succeed Rev. Woodward. Rev. A. B. Vincent, who had held the place of Central Missionary, resigned his work to do pastoral work at Oxford. The eastern and western sections were extended, which made the central section smaller, and the General Missionary took this section together with his duties as General Missionary. The Kinston meeting suggested many changes. Dr. E. E. Smith was elected as one of the editors of the Baptist Sentinel. The American Baptist Home Mission Society submitted a proposition to the Convention relative to Shaw University. The Home Mission Society agreed if the colored Baptists of North Carolina would raise five thousand dollars for Shaw University they (the Home Mission Society) would give thirteen thousand dollars for a Tupper Memorial Building and Estey Seminary annex. The proposition was accepted, the place of General Missionary abandoned, and the Corresponding Secretary was appointed to raise the five thousand dollars within the limited time of two years. The Secondary Baptist Schools of North Carolina were formed into a confederation to receive support in part from the Convention. Although the amount of money which each school received was very small yet it stimulated the schools while it greatly increased the interest in the Convention from the different sections where these schools were located.

        Very much to the regret of the Convention Rev. G. O. Bullock resigned as District Missionary for the western section to take charge of the pastorate of the Friendship Church, Charlotte, vacated by Rev. P. F. Maloy. Dr. S. H. Witherspoon, of the Ebenezer Church of Charlotte, was elected to take the place made vacant by the resignation of Rev. Bullock. After serving one year in this capacity Dr. Witherspoon was promoted to the position of Corresponding Secretary. Rev. D. J. Avery left the eastern section for the pastorate, and Rev. L. T. Bond was elected at the Wilmington meeting to succeed him. It was in the Salisbury meeting that the Convention heard with profound regret of the death of Rev. G. W. Holland, of the First Church of Winston-Salem, N. C. Few men had done more than Rev. Holland both in the extension of the church work and in his loyalty to the Convention, and hence his death was keenly felt by his brethren. Dr. L. G. Jordan, Corresponding Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention, was present in the Salisbury meeting and the brethren gave him a royal welcome, especially in view of the fact that it demonstrated the union which for the first time in many years existed between the two Conventions. Previous to this time Dr. Beckham had visited the Convention, but not in the capacity of an invited guest. We have already mentioned the differences which arose between the Educational and Missionary Convention of North Carolina and the National Baptist Convention. As a result of this difference the extreme eastern section of the State had formed themselves into an organization called "The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina." The organization was formed very much to the regret of the regular Convention brethren, and existed for a short while. The feeling between the brethren of the two Conventions was never so radical as in other States where such rival Conventions existed. Both felt that they were contending for a principle. When the union between the mother Convention of the State and the National Convention was effected there was nothing for the new Convention to feed upon, and hence instead of strengthening it weakened.

        The face of Dr. J. O. Crosby, so familiar to his brethren when visiting Salisbury, was conspicuous for the absence which had called him to distant California to take up his future abode. For many years Dr. Crosby, one of the ablest men of the State, was identified with every interest of the Baptists.

        The first report of Dr. Witherspoon was read at the Oxford Convention. Dr. Witherspoon was quite zealous and faithful in carrying forward the cause of the Convention as left to his care. There were, however, many disadvantages under which he had to labor. As we have already said according to the plan of the work he had to raise larger amounts of money, fewer and less experienced men to assist him, and himself new to the field as a whole. Yet his brethren acknowledged his faithfulness. The Baptist Sentinel, the organ of the Convention, changed in part and Dr. C. S. Brown, a man of wide experience as a writer and of exceptional ability, was made one of the editors.

        Dr. A. W. Pegues, Dean of the Theological Department of Shaw University, had resigned as a necessity on account of his health, and had again assumed control of the Deaf and Dumb Institution. Dr. P. F. Morris, of Lynchburg, Virginia, was elected in his place. He made his appearance before the Convention in Oxford and presented a strong plea for the work of the Department of Theology. The tendency of so many of our people to erroneous views on the questions of Sanctification, Holiness, the "New Tongue," caused the Convention to appoint Dr. Pegues to give the Baptist view on the subject. When he was through all understood our position as Baptists on the questions, and all were greatly edified. Dr. Clugh, Secretary of the Educational Board of the National Baptist Convention, spoke on the establishment of a National Theological Seminary, to be under the general supervision of the National Baptist Convention. Dr. W. M. Alexander made an unusual impression in the interest of Foreign Missions. Before the next meeting of the Convention, in the Providence of God, Dr. Walter A. Patillo, of Oxford, was taken away. Dr. Patillo was a strong man taken from the ranks, loyal to every interest, and had done quite a lot of church and other kinds of Christian work. The Convention, as it appeared in 1908, was far from the Convention of even fifteen years prior. The church work in every respect had made great strides. Brush arbors and log churches were no more. In many instances brick structures had been erected. The value of church edifices and Baptist property had long since reached the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The ministry compared favorably with all the churches and the wilderness of the recent past changed to blossom into intelligence, piety and Christian dignity.

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