Carter G. Woodson- Chapter 7: Dissension and Weakness

It’s Black History Month, so I am continuing with the series of posts regarding Shaw resident and Father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson and his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, published in 1933.

In the last chapter we looked at the institution of the Black church. Woodson continues on the topic but goes into the problem of a dis-united church and other problems.

In recent years the churches in enlightened centres have devoted less attention to dissension than formerly, but in the rural districts and small cities they have not changed much; and neither in urban communities nor in the country has any one succeeded in bringing these churches together to work for their general welfare. The militant sects are still fighting one another, and in addition to this the members of these sects are contending among themselves. The spirit of Christ cannot dwell in such an atmosphere.

I shrug at this. Even in the Bible early Christians were divided, so…. Anyway, Woodson is critical of the quality of the church leaders, usually the preacher. “Because our “highly educated” people do not do this, large numbers of Negroes drift into churches led by the “uneducated” ministers who can scarcely read and write.” And he doesn’t let up on criticism of the “educated”, as usual.

In a rural community, then, a preacher of this type must fail unless he can organize separately members of the popular Methodist and Baptist churches who go into the ritualistic churches or establish certain “refined” Methodist or Baptist churches catering to the “talented tenth.” For lack of adequate numbers, however, such churches often fail to develop sufficient force to do very much for themselves or for anybody else. On Sunday morning, then, their pastors have to talk to the benches. While these truncated churches go higher in their own atmosphere of self-satisfaction the mentally undeveloped are left to sink lower because of the lack of contact with the better trained. If the latter exercised a little more judgment, they would be able to influence these people for good by gradually introducing advanced ideas.

When he mentions W.E.B. DuBois’ “talented tenth” it comes off as a swipe and a continuation of his frustration with “educated” African Americans. He’s not fond of the uneducated preacher either. No wonder people think he was an atheist, which I do not.

I think Woodson was unconvinced about the validity of the Christian faith by his observations of Christian practitioners and by the fact it was obtained from the white majority.

It is very clear, then, that if Negroes got their conception of religion from slaveholders, libertines, and murderers, there may be something wrong about it, and it would not hurt to investigate it. It has been said that the Negroes do not connect morals with religion. The historian would like to know what race or nation does such a thing. Certainly the whites with whom the Negroes have come into contact have not done so.