Ah, let me get this over with. Most years I do Carter G. Woodson’s (father of Black History) Mis-Education of the Negro, his more popular book. Silly me decided, for the second year, tried to get through his History of Negro Church. I give up. This is not fun and it is the last of this year’s series. So I am going to get back to the stuff I love. I learned things, but it’s not an enjoyable read.
As many are aware it was illegal at some point in Southern States to teach slaves to read. Almost all Protestant denominations are biblically focused. Books, like the Bible, require the skill of reading.
Woodson beats up on the Episcopalians in the first part of the chapter because in his opinion they did a bad job of catechizing, and did not advocate for abolition. Woodson doesn’t mention, but I will, the Episcopalians have another book, the Book of Common Prayer. There’s a lot of reading.
Then he moves on to the Presbyterians. The frozen chosen were a tad better. They were interested in colonizing and missionary work using Black Americans. They established a training school, which later became the HBCU Lincoln University. They also provided religious instruction verbally, which was a temporary fix.
Presbyterian pastors such as Rev. Josiah Law, who provided instruction to Georgian Blacks, discovered that some opposed even verbal instruction for fear that it would lead to desires for literary instruction.
Woodson seems to have liked the efforts of the Methodists and the Baptists. Some white Christians were enthusiastic in their faith and would teach their servants how to read the Bible. “General Coxe of Fluvanna County, Virginia, had all his slaves taught to read the Bible in spite of the law and public opinion to the contrary, and so did a farmer whom Frederick Law Olmsted visited in Mississippi.”
So 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 6- Schism and the Subsequent Situation. However, since this has little to do with Truxton Circle or the history of Shaw. I’ll probably take on the next half, next year. It’s a chore, and this blog needs to be fun for me to do what I do.
This is the chapter where Carter G. Woodson gets into what he really is interested in, how the different denominations that attracted Black congregants dealt with the question of slavery. He looks at the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Baptists and glances at the Episcopalians.
Woodson is interested in if a denominational organization decided that slavery was wrong how did they go about living that out. Up until this point in the book Woodson was looking at the various church organizing and planting that had or was directed at a Black American population. This then sets up an understanding, via how churches were organized, how they could or couldn’t get members to take action against slavery.
So what are some examples? Well there is the tried an true strongly worded statement. The Presbyterians’ General Assembly did this. The Alabama State Baptist Convention denied slaveholders certain appointments.
The surprising thing I found in this chapter was the mention of Black burial societies in the South. The mention is very brief but interesting when you think of all that prompted the necessity for a burial society, raising money to bury someone properly, and the means to keep and maintain a group.
Redeemer was a mystery. It was this odd ethnic Italian Baptist church in a largely Black neighborhood. I’d been told, by the owner of Catania Bakery that there was a decent sized Italian population in Truxton Circle. They are no more. I have no idea where they went or how many were here in the first place.
So I will do something new. I will look at the land records.
Redeemer Italian Baptist Church was at 1200 Kirby St NW, sitting on Square 555, lots 62 and 63. In 1923 the trustees of Chiesa Del Redentore Italian Baptist, Leonardo Dell Erba, Olindo Marseglia, and Pasquale Vasco took out a loan of $10,000 from the Perpetual Building Association, a lender that did a lot of business in Truxton Circle. The debit was settled in 1943. In 1964 the church sold the property to New Birth Baptist Church.
According to a website regarding corporations, Redeemer Italian Baptist Church of Washington, DC dissolved in 1967. As I have learned from Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s History of the Negro Church (yes, this is an Italian church), individual Baptist churches can be rather independent entities. As you will see below from the survey, most of the church’s parishioners lived in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. So it would be a fair guess the enthusiasm and spirit that supported the church in the 1920s, was long gone in 1967.
It was a small church with only 125 people, ethnic Italians, most of whom did not live in the city, and none in the area, which included what is now known as Downtown, Swampoodle, Mt. Vernon Sq/Triangle, and Shaw. With 40% of the congregation being under the age of 18, I’d say this was a commuter church of sizable Italian families…. who were not Catholic…. because this is a Baptist church and there is a difference. A normal Sunday would have 60-65 people in attendance. Those families were mostly middle/blue-collar as 30% were white collar and 55% were skilled manual labor, think carpenters, plumbers and machinists.
The church was founded in 1915 on 48th Avenue NE as a storefront church. From 1919-1923 it met at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Looking around in the Evening Star, they were at 3rd and E Streets NW in 1922. In 1920 they started building the church that sits at 1200 Kirby NW.
In the 1957 has the pastor as the Rev. Olindo Marsaglia (Olindo Marseglia is on the loan docs) and the founding of the 1200 Kirby St NW church was Rev. MC Marseglia. This, and this is just me guessing, smells like a family business. Let’s wander back to our Woodson, remember Baptist churches are independent of each other with little to no hierarchical body over them. So Rev. Olindo Marseglia died in 1966, and the church dissolved in 1967. So it makes sense, when looking at it as a Marseglia family venture it went away when the last interested Marseglia died.
Rev. MC Marseglia from the 1920 article appears to have been the Rev. Domenico Costantino “Mimi” Marseglia. According to his Find a Grave write up, “Rev Domenico ‘Mimi’ was pastor at the Federal Hill Italian Baptist Mission in Providence, RI. The Euclid Ave Baptist Church in Cleveland, OH. As well as the Church of the Redeemer in Washington, D.C.” Also poking around I found an obit for the daughter of one of the trustees, Angelina Vasco Sepe, that mentions the Redeemer Italian Baptist Church.
Anywho, this was an interesting slice of Truxton Circle Italian-American history.
This was a bit of a mystery. This image is a photocopy of a black and white photograph. My notes say 100 block of Bates St NW looking west. I see the house at the end of the street, which makes it either 3rd or 1st St NW. Then there are those decorative balls on the top of the houses.
Using Google Street View I attempted to find those decorative items on the roof line.
No dice on the first look.
I am guessing the photographs were taken in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Google Street View is from 2019, well after a fair amount of renovation work. But on the other hand this area experienced a fair amount of disinvestment after the original builder and owner, the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) sold its rentals. Many of those rentals wound up in the hands of George Basiliko who had many a housing violation.
Something that hints of those decorative balls appear on the tops of 225-229 Bates St NW. The tops of a curve remain. The balls are long gone. It is hard to tell with the tree cover looking at Google Street View. Even if I still lived in Truxton Circle, it’s currently cold, so I probably wouldn’t venture out to look with my own eyes.
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 Chapter5 – Early Development.
A major figure for the fifth chapter is a Christopher Rush.
Rush was connected to the Zionist branch/ part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was active in New York in the late 18th century. He was a notable preacher and helped with the flourishing of the AME church after it experienced a moment of decline.
The chapter is half AME history and half Black Baptist church history.
For the Baptist portion the central figure is Andrew Marshall.
Something I did find interesting, and I don’t find much of this book interesting, was how some churches were organized. There would be churches where African Americans outnumbered the white congregation.
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 4 The Independent Church Movement.
I will pick out a few people mentioned in this chapter, because I have misplaced my notes for this chapter. One being Richard Allen in the late 1770s-1780s. Allen was born a slave, his ’employer’ allowed him to pursue his interest in preaching and allowed him to purchase his freedom. Woodson credits Allen for founding the African Methodist Church. Later he notes other gentlemen who were co-founders. He was active in Philadelphia and Baltimore.
As with the way of Protestantism, there is a bit of a split with the African Methodists. There were the followers of Richard Allen, the Allenists, and another group the Zionists.
Allen is mentioned throughout the chapter.
I must end this here because I do not want to re-read the chapter and I have no notes.
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.”
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.
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 slave holding 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.