Carter G. Woodson: History of the Negro Church: Ch. 2 The Dawn of the New Day

For this year I’m just doing two chapters of Carter G. Woodson’s History of the Negro Church because I find the book a little less interesting. Finding an audiobook made this review easier than the one for the first chapter.

In this chapter he takes a look at the Methodists. Woodson does not give a history of Methodism. Maybe his audience of 1921 readers are familiar with the denomination and how it is one of the dissenting sects coming out of Anglicanism/ the Church of England. My quickie version is that Methodism was founded by Rev. John Wesley (with help from brother Charles) where they reached out to the middling and working classes. There was a difference in how they expressed their faith and that comes into play in this chapter.

Woodson focused on how Methodists tackled the question of slavery. The dates covered in this chapter range from 1750 to 1793, so mainly during the colonial period and before the Methodists broke from Anglicans.  The founder Wesley, as well as Thomas Coke, and Francis Asbury opposed slavery.

The Methodists later (1780-ish) required that members not be slaveholders. If a member held a slave, they were expected to not be a slaveholder 12 months. Local leadership were the ones who were supposed to enforce this rule. There were some exceptions made for spouses of slave owners and people who held legal title to people who were too young, too old or too disabled to live on their own.

Despite efforts to purge slaveholding among their ranks, Methodism wasn’t as appealing to African Americans as the Baptist denomination. Whereas the Methodists were making real efforts to address slavery, the Baptists, because they were less organized in this effort, didn’t really address it.  The Baptists deferred to local sentiments and there was less of an abolitionist fervor.

Woodson mentions the Presbyterians, another protestant denomination. It appears they encouraged emancipation but did not require it.

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