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Early Colored Baptist Membership in the U. S.
by A.H. Newman


      Colored Baptist membership [was] about equal to that of the white churches covers the territory of the Southern Baptist Convention. Before emancipation the great mass of the colored Baptist membership was gathered in the white churches. Their spiritual needs were thus well cared for, and the Christian owners of slaves showed in many cases a most commendable interest in their moral and religious welfare. Special pews in the rear of the churches or in the galleries were set aside for their use. In many of the cities large colored churches were gathered from an early date. President Robert Ryland, of Richmond College, ministered for years to a large colored Baptist church. Many of the ablest ministers held special services for the colored people of the communities in which they lived. It was natural that with emancipation the colored people should have desired to enjoy complete independence in religious matters and should have withdrawn from the churches in which they could not expect to be treated as equals. Being ignorant themselves, the members of the colored churches could not be expected to be fastidious about the quality of the preaching to which they listened, and as no educated ministers of their own race were available they had to be content with the services of the uneducated. Much has been done by the American Baptist Home Mission Society in educating preachers and

teachers, and education is gradually affecting the masses of the colored population; but the work is too vast to be accomplished in a day, and immense areas of darkness and destitution remain to be overcome. It is doubtful whether, with all the effort that has been put forth, the spiritual needs of the colored people are as well cared for as they were before emancipation; but the separation and the independent development of the colored churches were an inevitable stage in the working out of the destiny of the race, and it is to be hoped that the agencies now at work, multiplied by the increased liberality of the denomination North and South, will in time provide this great portion of our denomination with educated teachers and preachers and elevate the masses of the colored population to a higher plane of intelligence and morality. The colored Baptists have shown themselves highly responsive to the efforts that have been put forth on their behalf. Besides their State Conventions the colored Baptists have a number of societies which aim to be national in their character, but which are not very vigorously sustained. The Baptist Foreign Missionary Convention of the United States was organized in 1880. It supports a few missionaries in Africa and sustains helpful relations to the colored Baptists of the Bahamas.

[From A. H. Newman, A History of the Baptist Churches in the United States, 1898, pp. 464-465. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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