This year I will attempt to get through all of Carter G. Woodson’s (the father of Black History) History of the Negro Church. This post is on Chapter 3- Pioneer Negro Preachers
If I could create a subtitle for half of this book it would be Black People Doing Things Prior to Emancipation. In this case, for this chapter, it is preaching the Gospel.
Here Woodson looks at the Silver Bluff Baptist Church founded around 1774/1775. It was the first Black Baptist church in America in South Carolina. Slaves founded the church and enslaved men were its earliest ordained preachers, such as David George and George Liele.
The American Revolution happened. The war sends George and Liele out of SC. Then the chapter turns a particular focus on George Liele, who Woodson depends on a Dr. Walte H. Brooks for the biography and history of. Liele winds up in Jamaica, after he was released from slavery, where he preached to slaves there.
The next preacher is Andrew Bryan, who was influenced by Liele. The person who owned him and other whites encouraged Bryan’s preaching. He founded a church in Savannah, GA but not everyone was keen on this and there were challenges, to say the least, even after Bryan was ordained. When Bryan died in 1812, the white Savannah Baptist Association noted,
“This Association is sensibly affected by the death of the Rev. Andrew Bryan, a man of color, and pastor of the First Colored Church in Savannah. This son of Africa, after suffering inexpressible persecutions in the cause of his divine Master, was at length permitted to discharge the duties of the ministry among his colored friends in peace and quiet; hundreds of whom through his instrumentality were brought to the knowledge of the truth, as it is in Jesus. He closed his extensive, useful, and amazingly luminous course in the lovely exercise of faith and in the joyful hope of a happy immortality.”
The Methodists produced Black Harry who worked with Bishop Francis Asbury. Harry had a gift for preaching, but was unfortunately illiterate.
Woodson covers the history other influential Black pastors working in the South and Northeast. These include John Gloucester (Presbyterian), Lemuel Haynes (Congregationalist), John Stewart (Methodist Episcopal), John Chavis (Presbyterian), and Henry Evans (Methodist). Most were born free, a few were college educated, all were protestants. So Woodson threw in the odd dig, once again, at the Catholic Church.