The History of Black Americans and the Black Church #86

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with episode #86 of the The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast.

Our Scripture Verse for today is John 14:6 which reads: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Our History of Black Americans and the Black Church quote for today is from Lee June, a professor at Michigan State University and the author of the book, “Yet With A Steady Beat: The Black Church through a Psychological and Biblical Lens.” He writes, “How then can the tremendous work already performed by the church community be enhanced? To realize the full potential, individuals and congregations can do a “spiritual check­up.” Just as a mental status exam is used in the psychological area, one can employ a “spiritual status exam” in the spiritual area. In the psychological area, to assess one’s mental status one looks at a person’s orientation to time and space, the adequacy of their memory (long – and short-term), their insight, their ability to make sound judgment, and the ability for sound reasoning. In the spiritual area, one can assess the following: Do I have an accurate and proper sense of history? Am I attempting to serve two masters? Is Christianity a way of life? Do I properly understand the biblical definition of ministry? Is Jesus Christ Savior and Lord? Is my conception of what a church is accurate? Is my overall theology biblically sound? Have I been truly “born again”? Is the congregation that I am involved in practicing the elements of a “highly effective” church (Barna 1999) and a “high impact” church (Barna and Jackson 2004a)? Can I detect a toxic faith system? Do I understand the role and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life? Is the congregation that I am a part of doing the work of the ministry or is it just “churching”? Am I growing in love as Jesus Christ commanded?”

In this podcast, we are using as our texts: From Slavery to Freedom, by John Hope Franklin, The Negro Church in America by E. Franklin Frazier, and The Black Church In The U.S. by William A. Banks.

Our first topic for today is titled “That All May Be Free, Part 3: Slavery and the Revolutionary Philosophy, Part 4” from the book, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin.

The members of the Continental Congress doubtless realized that Jefferson’s bold accusations of the king were at considerable variance with the truth. The slave trade had been carried on not only by British merchants but by the colonists as well, and in some colonies no effort had been made even to regulate it. There was, moreover, much favorable disposition to slavery in the Southern colonies, an attitude shared by a larger number than the “few bold and persevering pro-slavery men” described by George Livermore. Those who favored slavery at all realized that if Jefferson’s views prevailed in the Declaration of Independence, there would be no justification for the institution once the ties to England were completely cut. It would be better, therefore, to reject the strong language in which the complete responsibility was laid at the door of George III. In thus declining to accuse the king of perpetuating slavery and the slave trade, the colonists contented themselves with engaging in what Rufus Choate later called “glittering generalities” and in connecting all too vaguely the status of the Negro with the philosophy of freedom for all men.

If the Lord tarries His Coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.

Our second topic for today is “The Negro Church and Assimilation, Part 7: The Gospel Singers, Part 1” from “The Negro Church in America” by E. Franklin Frazier.

Although the lower strata in the Negro community do not participate to the same extent as the upper strata in the main currents of American life, they are nevertheless increasingly assimilating the manners and customs of American society. There is thus achieved a certain external conformity to the pattern of American culture. They continue to be influenced in their thinking and especially in their feelings and sentiments by the social heritage of the Negro which is represented by the Spirituals and religious orientation toward the world contained in the Spirituals. The masses of Negroes may increasingly criticize the church and their ministers, but they cannot escape from their heritage. They may develop a more secular outlook on life and complain that the church and the ministers are not sufficiently concerned with the problems of the Negro race, yet they find in their religious heritage an opportunity to satisfy their deepest emotional yearnings.

Out of the revolt of the lower strata against the church and the growing secularization of Negro religion there has come an accomodation between traditional Negro religion and the new outlook of Negroes in the new American environment. This accommodation is symbolized by the Gospel Singers. The songs which the Gospel Singers sing have been described as a compound of “elements found in the old tabernacle songs, the Negro Spirituals and the blues.” Since the Negro has become urbanized, there has been an amazing rise and spread of “gospel singing.” This has been attributed, and correctly so, to the fact that, “As Negro churches have become more European in decorum and program, the great mass of less Europeanized Negroes began to look elsewhere for full vented religious expressions in music and preaching.” The important fact is that although the Gospel Singers have gone outside the church for a congenial form of religious expression, they nevertheless remain in the church and are a part of the church. Recently when a Gospel Singer died and her funeral was held in a large Baptist church in the nation’s capital, it was reported that 13,000 persons viewed her remains, a thousand persons jammed the church, and another thousand lined the sidewalks outside the church. Dozens of gospel-singing groups came from neighboring areas and as far away as Pennsylvania and Illinois. The white owner of a broadcasting company flew from Ohio to attend the funeral. Between 150 and 200 cars accompanied the body to the cemetery.

More important still for us here is the fact that the Gospel Singers symbolize something that is characteristic of Negro religion from the standpoint of assimilation. Some of the so-called advanced Negro churches resented these Gospel Singers and refused to permit them to sing within their churches. They have gradually become more tolerant and let down the bars as the Gospel Singers have acquired status and acceptance within the white world. Such well-known gospel singers as Mahalia Jackson, Rosetta Thorpe, and the Ward Singers have been accepted as “artists.” The Gospel Singernot only sings to the Negroworld but sings to the white world. One of the famous Ward Sisters stated that the gospel singing is popular because”…it fills a vacuum in people’s lives. For people who work hard and make little money it offers a promise that things will be better in the life to come.” She was thinking, of course, of Negroes but the Gospel Singers sing to white America as well. This is indicated by their hold on the record industry and their popularity on radio and television programs.

If the Lord tarries His Coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.


Our third topic for today is from “The Black Church in the U.S.: Its Origin, Growth, Contributions, and Outlook” by Dr. William A. Banks.

Today we are looking at part 28 of Chapter 5: “Radicalism: 1915 – 1953”

Malcolm X: One prize prisoner who was converted was Malcolm Little, better known as Malcolm X. He was born in Omaha, Neb., in 1925, the son of a Baptist minister. He spent most of his early life in Lansing, Mich. “Big Red” as he was known, entered a life of crime and was twice convicted for larceny. During his second incarceration in Concord, Mass., in 1947 he became a Black Muslim. After his release he became the movement’s chief spokesman. The Black Muslims’ existence was practically unknown to Whites and many Blacks. E. Franklin Frazier makes mention of the movement in his book, The Negro Church in America, although it was published in 1962. It was in 1958, about thirty-seven years after the cult’s birth, that recognition came. On April 14, 1958, squads of the N.Y.C. police rushed to Seventh Avenue and 125th Street in Harlem, to break up a fight between two Black men.

The police engaged in an altercation with Johnson Hinton, a Negro who was not party to the fight, knocked him to the ground, and arrested him. It might have been a commonplace incident if Hinton had not been a Black Muslim and a member of Malcolm X’s temple. A huge crowd of angry Negroes, estimated at more than 500 by police, immediately threw a cordon around the local police station.

Officials grew alarmed and were happy to contact Malcolm X when they were advised to do so by a Negro newspaperman. Upon his arrival at the police station, Malcolm demanded that Hinton be removed to a hospital. This was done and, at a signal from Malcolm, the crowd quickly and quietly dispersed. Hinton later won a $75,000 damage claim against the city of New York, and Harlem police marked Malcolm and the Black Muslims as something to keep an eye on. It was after this that Malcolm became widely known as Muhammad’s emissary. He crisscrossed the nation, recruiting Negroes and frightening many whites, in one of the most amazingly successful missionary campaigns ever conducted in the U.S.

If the Lord tarries His Coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.

Let’s have a word of prayer.

In closing, allow me to say that like many of you, I grew up in a very religious and church-going family, and during that time, I often heard the phrase “Being Saved.” Now, much of what the church people whom I grew up around said “being saved” was I now know is wrong according to the Bible. For example, joining the church, being baptized, doing good things, or being a good person does not mean you are saved. I wrote an article about this matter titled “On ‘Being Saved’ in Black America” which is available for you to read free of charge on our website, Right now, I want to share with you very briefly what the Bible says “being saved” really is.

First, understand that you need to be saved because you are a sinner. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, understand that a horrible punishment eternal Hell awaits those who are not saved. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus Christ said that God will say to those who are not saved, “depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Third, realize that God loves you very much and wants to save you from Hell. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you want to be saved from Hell and be guaranteed a home in Heaven, simply believe in Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose from the dead for your sins, and then call upon the Lord in prayer and ask Him to save your soul. And believe me, He will.

Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

If you do that today, then you can truly sing in the words of the Old Negro spiritual: Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty I’m free at last.

Until next time, may God richly bless you.

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