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Negro Baptists of North Carolina



        The African Expositor was established in 1877 with Dr. H. M. Tupper, President of Shaw University, Dr. N. F. Roberts, Prof. E. H. Lipscombe, Editors; Drs. A. Shepard, C. Johnson, G. W. Perry, Business Managers. The motto of the Sentinel was "Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God."

        The Expositor consisted of eight pages and was devoted to education, religion, temperance and general intelligence. The paper had a wide circulation throughout the State, as might have been expected with the ablest men of the denomination at its head. Representing Shaw University from time to time through its columns it had a wide circulation in many places in the North. Dr. Tupper once said, "Had it not been for the Expositor I could not have established the Medical Department." The pastors and Christian workers throughout the State took hold of the Expositor and it became a great strength to the Sunday school work as well as the church and conventional work. A portion of each issue was devoted to the Foreign Mission interests, and much of the awakening of that early period may be directly traced to the sentiment developed through the columns of the African Expositor.


        For several years following the publication of the African Expositor there was no paper published by the Negro Baptists of North Carolina. For a while there was a paper published in Salisbury called the Gold Dust. We are not quite certain, but we think Dr. J. O. Crosby was the first editor and was assisted by Dr. C. C. Somerville. Although the Gold Dust did not exist sufficiently long to accomplish all that might have been accomplished, yet while it did exist it was greatly helpful to the cause in the State, and especially in the western section, where it was more largely read. As no one individual can arrogate to himself the sole credit of building up a great cause, so no single enterprise can lay claim to such an accomplishment. It was not the African Expositor, nor the Chowan Pilot, nor the Baptist Sentinel, but each and all serving in their turn, contributing a portion which makes a great cause go. So it was with the Gold Dust. There appeared from time to time able articles and editorials from the gifted pen of the gentleman who had the management, and from others throughout the State, which have done much to mould sentiment and marshal into line the forces which have made the Negro Baptists what they are. Certainly much of the intelligence of the Piedmont section, much of the ambition and push, much of the strength of the men and the churches is due to education and encouragement which came to the Baptists of that section through the publication of the Gold Dust.


        The Baptist Headlight had its birth in Salisbury, as did the Gold Dust. Dr. Somerville was intimately associated if not at one time editor of the Headlight. For the most part Rev. A. L. Sumner was its editor. The Headlight had a longer existence than did the Gold Dust, and in fact had a more extensive circulation and support. The Headlight drew more largely on the State Convention and the different associations and other organizations of the State. While it was published at first in Salisbury when the editor was elected Principal of the Goldsboro Normal School he carried the Headlight with him, and it was published while he remained in connection with the school, at Goldsboro. From Goldsboro he went to Burgaw, and took charge of the Burgaw High School. The paper was then sent out from Burgaw. The fact that a paper invariably secures a good deal of local patronage made the Headlight more extensively read in the east as well as the western section of the State. Like the Gold Dust the Headlight did its specific work in making sentiment and paving the way for a paper which was to be the permanent organ of the Baptists of the State. It was true that the short life of these two papers and others of lesser caliber made the saying proverbial that "Baptist organs die early"; yet the good these men did and the sacrifices they made to run these papers as long as they did has an important place in the cherished recollections of the achievements of the blessed past.


        The Chowan Pilot was at first edited by Dr. C. S. Brown, and had Winton, N. C., for its home. The Pilot had even greater advantages over the Headlight than the Headlight had over the Gold Dust. To begin with the East Roanoke Association took firm hold of the Pilot, and not only gave loyal support in the number of paying subscribers, but made donations to enable the editor, who was the acknowledged leader of the Association, to purchase office fixtures and press to run the paper from the office. Soon the paper was issued in connection with the school, the Waters Normal and Industrial Institute, and as a feature of the industrial department the paper was published. The students soon learned to set up the type, which greatly facilitated the work and made the cost considerably less. The editor, with that spirit so characteristic of him, met every organization of Baptists it was possible to meet, and so impressed the paper on them they felt it almost imperative to give their support, and hence the Chowan Pilot was read all over the State. And, too, it was always considered that the Baptists had no writer superior to Dr. Brown. His editorials aroused an interest in the Baptist cause as nothing else had done. Sometimes it was a political issue, and then a moral, and an educational, but always something which meant the uplift of the race and the denomination. If there ever lived an uncompromising Baptist it was the Editor of the Chowan Pilot. Such loyalty and decision will always demand respect and attention. With so many duties upon him as principal of a growing institution and pastor of several churches, the Editor of the Pilot felt called upon to ask that the Baptists assume control of the paper and appoint another editor, and Rev. W. A. Patillo, of Littleton, was appointed to take the editorship. Dr. Patillo had experienced something of this kind of work in connection with a Farmers Alliance sheet, besides many admirable qualities such as the former editor possessed, and the Convention felt itself fortunate to secure his services. The Pilot was not, however, published long before a great change came in connection with the conventional work which necessitated a change in its organ. The work of cooperation had its beginning. Dr. Brown was chosen to lead that work as Corresponding Secretary of the Convention and general missionary under the plan of cooperation. This work began with the publication of the Baptist Quarterly, with the general missionary editor. The quarterly was continued for ten months and a monthly took its place. Dr. Brown felt that he could not do the work of general missionary and editor and keep up the work of the Waters Institute, and he resigned this place to return to the school work and the pastorate.

        Dr. Brown was succeeded by J. A. Whitted, Corresponding Secretary and general missionary, who became his successor as Editor of the Baptist Quarterly. He edited the Baptist Sentinel Monthly and Baptist Sentinel Weekly covering a period of twelve years.

        The Baptist Sentinel was established December 8, 1898, with the motto "I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel." Ez. 3:7. The paper was published in the city of Raleigh every Thursday. At first there were only three hundred subscribers; but it grew rapidly until soon its list increased to thirty-five hundred.

        The effort to establish papers had proven so fruitless it was difficult to secure the confidence of the readers as to the permanency of the paper; but this was finally overcome, and the Sentinel gained the confidence of the State and established a record for its conservatism and for the choice matter which appeared from time to time. The plan of cooperation being in full blast at this time, and having meetings in the State somewhere each week through its missionaries, the spread of the Sentinel was greatly facilitated.

        Dr. N. F. Roberts, who had served up to this time as business manager, very much to the regret of the staff resigned. Mr. J. P. Williams was elected to succeed him. At the meeting of the Convention at Kinston, N. C., 1905, Dr. E. E. Smith was elected one of the editors; Dr. S. N. Vass and Rev. G. W. Moore, corresponding editors; Dr. N. F. Roberts, secretary and treasurer. Dr. Roberts was well known and trusted in North Carolina, which gave much encouragement to the project. Mr. Williams gave his best energy to the paper, and its success was largely due to his faithfulness and efficiency.

        As the people became convinced that the Sentinel was abiding they took hold of it and its circulation was increased to thirty-five hundred. The policy of the paper had very much to do with its growth and development. From the beginning the paper was conservative and sound in its policy, allowing nothing to come into its columns which meant to destroy the harmony and prosperity of the denomination. Throughout all the changes and commotions of that period the Sentinel stood for harmony and mutual helpfulness between the races. At times it was condemned for its conservative policy, but extraneous articles were kept out of its columns. Thus it made friends for the race and for the denomination. It proved to be one of the main levers in the uplift of the Negro Baptists, which dates from the establishment of this Baptist Sentinel.

        The President of Shaw University kindly granted to the Convention a site on the campus of the University for the erection of a building for ninety-nine years for the exclusive use of the Baptist Sentinel. The grant was gladly accepted; subscriptions to the amount of four hundred and fifty dollars were taken for this object and the building erected as the home of the organ of the Convention.

        While the Convention still held claim to the Sentinel, that it might be relieved of a part of the responsibility, granted the organization to a number of the brethren into a Sentinel Stock Company, the Convention itself taking a number of stocks. May 8 1901, this company was organized and incorporated April 27, 1905, taking the name Baptist Sentinel Publishing Company. While the Sentinel still continued as the organ of the Convention, it was under the direct supervision of the stockholders. The Sentinel Company did a great deal of job work, and for this purpose bought type and other fixtures to the amount of several hundred dollars. With this increase of strength, with its conservatism and clean publications, the Baptist Sentinel took its place among the leading weeklies of the Negro Baptists in the country. It improved its material, making an eight page sheet. It became a tower of strength, and found a welcome in thousands of homes throughout the State and in other States. The Biblical Recorder, the organ of the white Baptists of North Carolina, said of the Sentinel: "This excellent paper is conducted by Brother Williams with industry, ability and devotion. It is one of the best representatives of the colored race. In fact, such a paper goes far to create hope for the race."

        While the Sentinel was the organ of the colored Baptists of North Carolina it was extensively read in other States, and gained considerable influence throughout the country.

        The paper sustained its greatest loss in the death of Mr. Williams, Business Manager, which occurred at his home in Warrenton June, 1906. There have been men of whom it may be said they laid their life on the altar for the success of some project. This may be truly said of Mr. Williams in his relation to the Sentinel.

        Eighteen months intervened from the death of Mr. Williams to the appointment of a permanent business manager. Dr. A. W. Pegues, C. L. W. Smith and G. W. Yores served in this capacity during their intervention. The Jamestown Exposition had just closed. Rev. C. H. Williamson, of Raleigh, had served in the capacity of Commissioner-General for North Carolina. His work had been so well accomplished his praises were sounded by men of distinction of both races. He had handled to splendid advantage ten thousand dollars and had made such a presentation at the Exposition the Board saw in him a suitable successor for Mr. Williams, and he was elected to that position 1907.

        In the fall of 1907 J. A. Whitted, who had served as editor since the establishment of the paper, resigned, and Dr. C. S. Brown, an able and gifted writer, ripe with experience in this line, was elected to succeed him as editor with Dr. Smith. Dr. S. N. Vass and Dr. S. H. Witherspoon were elected field editors. The Sentinel took on new life and influence, as might have been expected with such an able staff. What the Biblical Recorder was to the white Baptists of North Carolina the Baptist Sentinel was to the colored Baptists, awakening an interest, giving life and inspiration to everything which meant the uplift of the Negro Baptists in North Carolina in particular and humanity in general.

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