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Negro Baptists of North Carolina


        The Providence which had been manifest in the welfare of the Negro Baptists since their orginization in Goldsboro in 1867, had something special in store to be brought to them in their annual meeting at Oxford, N. C., in 1894. A meeting between the Northern and Southern Baptists (white) had been held at Fortress Monroe September 12th and 13th, 1894, to devise plans by which the two sections might work together for the further uplift and development of the Negro. When this meeting was called there was much apprehension lest the effort should prove futile. God watching over the destiny of His people willed it otherwise, and what the ardent friends of the race feared did not happen. Everything presented on either side, instead of meeting with bitter opposition, was kindly received, and soon it was evident that the North and the South, so long apart, could and did reach an amicable agreement.

        Another meeting was called in Atlanta in the same year. The plan, with some modifications at this next meeting, met the hearty endorsement of both sides. This plan was submitted to the colored Convention at its meeting at Oxford, N. C., for ratification. It was afterward submitted to the white Convention at Greensboro. Both adopted the report and it was immediately put into prosecution. The following became parties to the plan for North Carolina: The Home Mission Society, New York City; the Southern Baptist Convention, Atlanta, Ga.; the white Convention of North Carolina and the Educational and Missionary Convention of North Carolina. The work began at once. Missionaries were appointed as follows: Rev. C. S. Brown, General Missionary; Rev. A. B. Vincent, Central Missionary; Rev. P. F. Maloy, Western Missionary; J. A. Whitted, Eastern Missionary. The objects of the plan, as stated, were to effect the strongest possible combination of talent and resources for the better organization and more efficient prosecution of missionary and educational work among the colored people in North Carolina, and the Christian development of our Baptist forces in the State.


        For the foregoing purposes in the State of North Carolina these organizations shall be regarded as coordinate bodies, and all work undertaken under this plan of cooperation shall be with the concurrence of all their recognized officers or Boards. The work in the State shall be under the immediate direction of the State Convention or its Executive Board, in conformity with this plan of cooperation; but representatives of other cooperative bodies shall have the right to make inquiries concerning the work.


        There shall be one general missionary and not to exceed four district missionaries for the State, each of the latter having a designated section for his field. The salaries of these missionaries and their expenses shall be borne as follows: For the first year one-fourth by each organization; the second year two-fifths by the State Convention, and the other three-fifths by the other bodies.

        The plan further outlines the duties of the missionaries on the field; plan of reports, relation of the missionaries to the cooperating bodies and to each other. The most important feature of the plan of cooperation was the New Era Institute. One of these meetings was provided for alternately each week throughout the different districts. A thorough course of lectures was provided on Biblical Theology, Church History, Christian Missions, Christian Education and other subjects, covering a period of three years. The best talent available, both colored and white, was secured to deliver lectures in these meetings. Another feature of the plan was to do missionary work proper in the rural and destitute sections of the State, and to raise money for the furtherance of the objects of the Convention. For the twelve years of cooperation some of the ablest men of the denomination in the State were employed: Rev. C. C. Somerville, D. D.; Rev. W. T. H. Woodward, Rev. D. J. Avera, Rev. G. O. Bullock, D.D.; Rev. D. J. Witherspoon, D.D.; Rev. L. T. Bond.


        The plan of cooperation provided for only three years. The wisdom of the plan was so evident that a continuation was imperatively necessary. Throughout the State such changes were effected as to bring hope and cheer from time to time to its promoters. When cooperation began in North Carolina the Convention was comparatively weak in the scope of its missionary and educational operation and in the influence exerted even in its own ranks. Only one missionary was employed, and it was utterly impossible for one missionary over such a vast territory to do the necessary work. His work in the past was largely confined to the central sections of the State. Scarcely anything was done for ministerial education, and but little more for the missionary work. The Convention counted itself fortunate to realize as much as three hundred dollars for all purposes per annum. Few took part in deliberations. This condition caused the State to be fully prepared for a change of some kind, and the Convention to give a hearty welcome as a promise of better conditions. When the plan was proposed to the Convention which met in its annual session at Oxford, N. C., in the fall of 1895, it was gladly and almost unanimously accepted. The churches entered into it with heart and hand.


        While North Carolina preachers compared favorably with those of any other State when the work began, yet they were far behind. The Institute soon awakened new life in the ministry throughout the State; many libraries were purchased, schools were better attended, even by the pastors; more attention was given to the preparation and delivery of sermons, and in many ways decided changes were realized as the direct result of these meetings held in the different and destitute sections of the State. Not only was there an awakening in the pulpit, but especially was it seen and felt in the pew; and as might be expected many changes were made in the pastorates throughout the State. Much of the sentimental and demonstrative worship gave way to intelligence and practical Christianity. As a natural consequence a change in the churches meant change in the associations and other religious organizations. At the end of the twelve years of cooperation in many respects the colored Baptists of North Carolina stood in the foremost ranks of Baptists, certainly in the management and deportment of their deliberative bodies. Such things as "points of order" and needless discussion, rows and confusions were things of the past Said a gentleman visiting our State Convention, "When are you going to fuss?" The reply was, "We are not going to fuss." North Carolina Baptists had been taught that it was not dignified, it was not religious to "fuss," and this training through which they had so recently passed had much to do with such a conclusion.


        The largest collection ever reported at any session of the Convention previous to the adoption of cooperation was three hundred dollars, and when this report was made by the Treasurer the Convention united in singing "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow."

        Immediately after the new plan was operated a decided change was manifest and for each one hundred dollars a thousand dollars was realized. At one session eight thousand dollars was reported as an annual contribution for all objects. The change in the amount of finance realized was by no means confined to the Convention. New life and inspiration was infused in churches and other bodies throughout the State; increased collections and hence a higher financial mark was the cry from the mountains to the seashore. Better churches were erected, more work of charity undertaken, and the missionary had a kindly welcome in sections where the work previous to this time had been hindered.


        Shaw University, until then only partly filled, was filled to overflowing, and the twelve years of cooperation closed as should be with the beginning of a determined effort to provide facilities for still larger numbers. While all that might have been done with regard to missions was not done, owing to the requirements of the plan for an increased appropriation from the Convention with the increase of years, yet sections of the State were reached which had not been reached before, and sections contributed to the Convention which hardly knew before that there was a Convention. While twelve years of the work marked but a beginning, yet those twelve years will always be regarded by loyal Baptists as a Godsend from the white Baptists and at an opportune moment. Not only did the State missionaries get a hearing in sections before unknown, but many associations of these sections had missionaries of their own, and through them quite an interest was awakened. In some instances these missionaries united with the State missionaries, and thereby added new strength. The Convention of the State was encouraged to appoint local missionaries. At one time there were four such missionaries laboring side by side with the State missionaries. Associations came into the Convention with men from their fields recommended for their special section. This was not only added strength to the Convention but renewed interest to the association. This work added much support to the endeavors of the women through their State organization to reach the people. For a long time it was extremely difficult for the women to do any work, but with the increase of this missionary spirit they were enabled to reach sections which they dare not undertake to reach before the infusion of this mission spirit. Local Missions, State Missions, Foreign Missions was the cry throughout North Carolina.


        Much praise is due the white brethren, North and South, for this movement. They entered the work with a will and at each step their instruction and advice have done much to make it what it was. Evidently it was intended for the emergency. It came at a time when political upheavals, which the colored people regarded as alarming, prevailed throughout the South. The only star of hope, as the colored Baptists of North Carolina saw it, was held out in the work of cooperation. The white brethren brought in touch with the leaders of the new movement offered the best advice they could under the circumstances, for no one could tell the outcome; and the leaders in turn gave this kindly advice to give comfort and cheer to their depressed brethren throughout the State. One of the white brethren was heard to say, "It was the leaders in cooperation that calmed the troubled waters." To some extent this may be attributing too much to cooperation, but certainly, coming at such a time and bringing the leaders of these two strongest church forces face to face from time to time in these meetings effecting the best understanding for such a period, must have had quite a wholesome bearing upon both races.

        While much credit and lasting gratitude is due the brethren of the North, much was due the South. The North contributed their pro rata in money; the South not only gave money but their time and talent, and, as we have already intimated, advice at a time when it was imperatively necessary. It was hard to the Negroes of North Carolina, as they saw it, when the right of franchise was taken from the vast majority. The presence of the white brother at such a time relieved the situation and helped to remove the opinion so prevalent that the white people of North Carolina had no care for the Negro.

        And, too, be it said, those who came to speak on such occasions were armed with the truth and so fully prepared they gave splendid light and information on the subjects laid down in the plan for the Institutes. Nothing of the past so enabled the white brethren to understand the colored brother, and nothing had done so much to bring the colored brother in closer touch and interest with his white brother. They were brought not only to labor together, but the one to pray for the advancement of the other in the blessed cause of the Redeemer's Kingdom.


        A splendid test of the changes which had come over the colored Baptists of North Carolina came to them just at the close of ten years of the plan of cooperation. The offer of a conditional gift was made to the Trustees of Shaw University of thirteen thousand dollars for an industrial building to the memory of Dr. H. M. Tupper, founder of the University, and an annex to Estey Seminary, provided the colored people of the State would raise five thousand dollars additional.

        The time-limit for the raising of this amount was two years. The Convention in its annual session at Kinston accepted the proposition, and the Corresponding Secretary of the Convention was appointed agent to raise the five thousand dollars. To meet these conditions not only must the five thousand be raised but an additional thousand, making six thousand in all to be raised. Responses were generous. Eighteen hundred dollars of the amount were pledged on the floor of the Convention, and wherever the agent appeared the people were ready to give. Much to the credit of the uneducated people their responses surpassed many who had the advantages of an education. With the expiration of the two years the amount was in hand, and the thirteen thousand secured. The building stands there as a mark of the respect and love of the colored people of North Carolina to the great and good man who laid the foundation and paved the way for the uplift of the Negro youth not only in North Carolina but throughout the Southland. While much of the success of the undertaking was due to the esteem in which Dr. Tupper was held by the colored people of North Carolina, much depended upon the improved condition of the people brought about through the developments of cooperation.

        To have undertaken such a task previous to the new movement would have been a useless task, especially in so short a time, but the twelve years of giving had taught the people to give, and when called upon it was comparatively easy to meet the requirements of the gift. Lasting gratitude and praise to all who brought cooperation to North Carolina.

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