The History of Black Americans and the Black Church #88

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with episode #88 of the The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast.

Our Scripture Verse for today is Ephesians 2:19-20 which reads: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”

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, “To realize its full potential, the church must be ministry-centered and teaching-oriented, emphasizing development and disciplining of men and women, focusing on its own survival as well as helping others. In an attempt to meet the broad range of needs in the congregation, they must be welcoming and open to utilizing the skills of everyone, including “professionals.” Furthermore, the church would be wise to offer a variety of workshops, institutes, etc., to promote training and advancement on an ongoing basis. The harvest truly remains ripe. Will those who claim membership in the “church” be workers/”ministers”? That is the question.”

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 6: Blacks Fighting for American Independence, Part 1” from the book, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin.

From the beginning of hostilities in 1775, the question of arming blacks, slave and free, consistently plagued the patriots who most of the time had trouble enough without this aggravating situation. The fear of slave insurrections had caused the colonists to exclude blacks from militia service even in Massachusetts in 1656, and in Connecticut in 1660. Despite this exclusion, blacks frequently participated in wars against the French and the Indians, thus developing a tradition of military service that was alive at the time of the War for Independence. As early as the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, blacks took up arms against the British, and their presence at subsequent battles in the spring and summer of that eventful year is an important part of the military history of the struggle.

In May 1775, the Committee on Safety–commonly known as the Hancock and Warren Committee–took up the matter of the use of blacks in the armed forces and came to the significant conclusion that only freemen should be used since the use of slaves would be “inconsistent with the principles that are to be supported.” It is doubtful that this policy was adhered to, for evidently slaves, as well as free blacks, fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Furthermore, many slaves were manumitted in order to serve in the army. Indeed, one of the outstanding heroes of the battle, Peter Salem, had shortly before the battle been a slave in Framingham, Massachusetts. One story, not thoroughly substantiated, says that Salem won the admiration of his comrades in arms by shooting the British Major Pitcairn. Mounting the redoubt and shouting, “The day is ours,” Pitcairn, who displayed more valor than judgment, received the full force of Peter Salem’s musket. The death of Pitcairn was a part of the moral victory won by the patriots on June 17, 1775.

Peter Salem was not the only black who succeeded in distinguishing himself at Bunker Hill. Another, Salem Poor, a soldier in a company and regiment made up largely of white men, won the praise of his superiors, who said that in the battle he “behaved like an experienced officer as well as an excellent soldier.” In an official commendation presented to the general court of Massachusetts these military leaders said, “We would only beg leave to say, in the person of this said negro centres a brave and gallant soldier. The reward due to so great and distinguished a character, we submit to the Congress.” While Peter Salem and Salem Poor stand out for their extraordinary feats of heroism, other blacks were integrated into the companies of whites and performed services for which they were later commended. Among these were Caesar Brown of Westford, Massachusetts, who was killed in action; Barzillai Lew, a fifer and drummer; Titus Colburn and Alexander Ames of Andover; Prince Hall, later an abolitionist and Masonic leader; and many other Massachusetts blacks: Cuff Hayes, Caesar Dickerson, Cato Tufts, Grant Cooper, and Sampson Talbert. While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, it is indicative of the early use of blacks in the War for Independence.

If the Lord tarries His Coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.
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Our second topic for today is “The Negro Church and Assimilation, Part 9: The Gospel Singers, Part 3” from “The Negro Church in America” by E. Franklin Frazier.

Then there is another aspect of this movement which needs to be considered in relation to the changes in the religion of the Negro. Because of the improvement in their economic conditions, an increasing number of Negro students are able to attend the colleges for Negroes in the South. They are being drawn from those strata in the Negro population closest to the rural background and who, therefore, are closest to the folk heritage of the Negro. Education, or more specially the opportunity to attend college, is the most important factor enabling Negroes to achieve middle-class status. Moreover, the leaders of this movement have seen something of the world because of their army or other experiences, or their parents have had similar experiences. In their revolt against the racial discrimination they must fall back upon the only vital social heritage that has meaning for them and that social heritage is the religious heritage represented by the Spirituals which are becoming secularized.

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

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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 30 of Chapter 5: “Radicalism: 1915 – 1953”

Malcolm left the movement in March 1964, and for five months toured Africa and the Middle East. He attacked Mr. Muhammad as a phony and a racist. The organization splintered badly, many men left it altogether. From a peak of perhaps 100,000, the organization dwindled to perhaps less than 25,000. It is doubtful if many of the defectors reevaluated their attitude toward Christianity or the White man. Malcolm’s feelings toward Whites changed and consequently he sought to establish a “true” Muslim organization with the blessings, he said, of the Muslims of Africa and the Middle East. From Jedda, Saudi Arabia, on April 20, 1964, he wrote:

You may be shocked by these words coming from me, but I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experiences and knowledge unfold it. The experiences of this pilgrimage have taught me much, and each hour here in the Holy Land opens my eyes even more.

When he returned to Chicago he said:

In the past, I have permitted myself to be used to make sweeping indictments of all white people, and these generalizations have caused injuries to some white people who did not deserve them. Because of the spiritual rebirth which I was blessed to undergo as a result of my pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to sweeping indictments of one race.

My pilgrimage to Mecca…served to convince me that perhaps American whites can be cured of the rampant racism which is consuming them and about to destroy this country. In the future, I intend to be careful not to sentence anyone who has not been proven guilty. I am not a racist and do not subscribe to any of the tenets of racism. In all honesty and sincerity it can be stated that I wish nothing but freedom, justice and equality: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–for all people. My first concern is with the group of people to which I belong, the Afro-Americans, for we, more than other people, are deprived of these inalienable rights.

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, gospellightsociety.com. 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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