History of the Negro Church- A Dull Report

So in prepping for February 2023, I have finally finished Shaw resident and father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson’s, History of the Negro Church. Good lord this book is boring. I’m just yawning at the thought of writing anything about it.

Sadly, this book is not as engaging as the Mis-Education of the Negro. But there are some useful parts, which unfortunately require getting through the tedious parts of the book to appreciate.

19-22-011-museum.jpgBishop Richard Allen By Dsdugan - Self-photographed, CC0, Link

One of the biggest things I got out of it was that African Americans were organizing and establishing and operating churches and preaching in America prior to the Civil War. Slavery and emancipation where major themes in the book. It is also Methodist heavy.

Thinking of this book makes me wonder if there is an alternative approach to Black history, which tends to be focused on the period of slavery. It is so much so, one may be left with the impression that African Americans didn’t do anything until they were emancipated, either by running North or with the Emancipation Proclamation.

There are gems, but you need to dig through a lot of dullness to get to them. When February rolls around, I’ll try not to bore anyone. Well, no more than I normally bore you.

1957 Church Survey: Full Gospel Tabernacle

In 1957 there was as survey of churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which included Shaw, Downtown, and parts of NE DC. The NW Urban Renewal Area was shrunk down to the Shaw Urban Renewal Area and other Urban Renewal Areas. To learn more about the 1957 Church Survey read my previous post Church Survey Northwest Urban Renewal Area October 1957.

The Full Gospel Tabernacle Church used to sit at 915 Massachusetts Ave NW (Square 370, lots 801-802) in 1957. Currently there is a modern multi-family (mixed-use) residential building there now. Full Gospel Tabernacle is now located at 632 11th Street NE and their web presence seems eh*. Their daycare website appears to have stock photography, so I wonder.

Is 915 Massachusetts Ave NW in Shaw?

map of Shaw and CHWell according to the above map. Nope.

Let’s go to the survey:

CS 37 Full Gospel by Mm Inshaw

It, according to the 1957 survey was 100% Caucasian. Huh. Now I wonder if the 1957 and the 2022 Full Gospel Tabernacle Churches are the same, because the 2022 one appears to be predominately Black.

No matter. Let’s look at the 1957 church.

As noted, in the survey the congregation was white. A quick look at the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site searching the term “Full Gospel” brought up some wedding announcements with white brides and ads for the church at 915 Mass Av NW with a photo of a white minister.

The church was 80% white collar, and 5% professional. So probably government workers with a few doctors and lawyers. All the other categories were 5%-3%. The church had been at the site since 1937. There may have been a Full Gospel Tabernacle in Alexandria around about the same time.  Go figure.

No surprise, only 1% of the congregants lived in the predominately Black NW Urban Renewal Area. Over half lived in other parts of NW DC and the rest out in the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia.

Lastly, a quick look at the DC Recorder of Deeds and it appears that the Full Gospel Assembly, along with trustees sold the property in 1965. So they didn’t last a decade after the survey.

*Yes, I haven’t updated the main Inshaw.com page in 10 years, so who am I to talk.

1957 Church Survey: The Methodists

There hasn’t been a church survey posting in a while. I think I posted all the main ones I wanted to post. Unfortunately, I wasn’t uniform with my file naming so I’m figuring out which ones are and aren’t in the survey.

What survey? Well in 1957 there was as survey of churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which included Shaw, Downtown, and the area around Union Station. The Northwest Urban Renewal Area was a precursor to the Shaw Urban Renewal Area, which later was known as Shaw. To learn more about the 1957 Church Survey read my previous post Church Survey Northwest Urban Renewal Area October 1957.

There were six ‘steeple’ Methodist Churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area. They were Galbraith, Hemingway Temple AME, Israel CME, John Wesley AME, Miles Memorial CME, and Mt. Vernon.

There were three fringe area churches captured by the survey: Asbury, Metropolitan and Turner Memorial.

The list of storefront churches, unfortunately don’t seem to line up. There was a Free Methodist Mission at 28 Eye St NW, but I can’t seem to find a corresponding survey sheet for it. Not every storefront was surveyed.

Most of the steeple churches were Black and middle class with a majority of their membership being white collar, professional and/or skilled labor.

I’m currently suffering through the father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson’s History of the Negro Church, which is providing some explanation of how the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) and CME (Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (the C was changed to Christian in 1954)) churches were formed.

I’ll save any lessons learned from Woodson’s book that may be applied to these surveys for Black History Month. I should be done with the book by then.

1957 Church Survey: New Bethany Baptist

In 1957 there was as survey of churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which included Shaw, Downtown, and the area around Union Station.  New Bethany is in Shaw. To learn more about the 1957 Church Survey read my previous posts, The Uniqueness of the 1957 Church Survey and Church Survey Northwest Urban Renewal Area October 1957.

New Bethany Baptist Church at 1300 10th St NW is still located in the Logan Circle area of Shaw. In 1957 it was a medium sized African American church with 500 members who mostly lived the the Northwest Urban Renewal Area. They didn’t provide percentages of age distributions or occupations. They wrote that they had many kids and over half were between 33 and 55. Most of the congregation were unskilled labor with some being white collar government workers.

CS 8 New Bethany Baptist by Mm Inshaw

 

1957 Church Survey: St. Phillips- Rando Church not in Shaw

Image-of-Church-at-1001-North-Cap-NE
Formerly St. Phillips

In 1957 there was as survey of churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which included Shaw, Downtown, and the area we’ll call Swampoodle. One of the churches was St. Phillips.

https://tile.loc.gov/image-services/iiif/service:pnp:highsm:10100:10183/full/pct:6.25/0/default.jpgSt. Phillips sat at 1001 North Capitol St NE. It was a Baptist church. In 1957 it was a decent sized church with about 1,000 members. It was a mostly white collar mostly African-American congregation.

To learn more about the 1957 Church Survey read my previous posts, The Uniqueness of the 1957 Church Survey and Church Survey Northwest Urban Renewal Area October 1957.

CS 16 St Phillips by Mm Inshaw

 

1957 Church Survey: Paramount Baptist Church – rando church not in Shaw

In 1957 there was as survey of churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which included Shaw, Downtown, and the area around Union Station (Swampoodle). One of the churches was Paramount Baptist Church at 723 1st St NW. To learn more about the 1957 Church Survey read my previous posts, The Uniqueness of the 1957 Church Survey and Church Survey Northwest Urban Renewal Area October 1957.

Currently there is a Paramount Baptist Church in SE DC, and according to their church history, they purchased 723 1st St NW, in 1954 and they paid the mortgage in 1957. They have this in their history:

The church conformed to the specifications of the Redeveloping and Land Agency Act in 1964 that we must vacate the space for the area was being redeveloped.

Not sure what that means. But I do know that that address is now a parking lot. [Mari starts humming Big Yellow Taxi]

They didn’t provide much of any information for the Church Survey. So here it is:

CS 9 Paramount Baptist by Mm Inshaw

 

1957 Church Survey: St Stephans Baptist -church in Mt Vernon Sq

In 1957 there was as survey of churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which included Shaw, Downtown, Mt. Vernon Square and the area around Union Station.  To learn more about the 1957 Church Survey read my previous posts, The Uniqueness of the 1957 Church Survey and Church Survey Northwest Urban Renewal Area October 1957.

photo of property

Well this is currently owned by the United House of Prayer, or UHOP. Before it was St. Stephans Baptist it was Peoples Congregational Church. St. Stephans Baptist Church is currently in Temple Hills, MD.

Let’s take a quick look at the survey for St. Stephans Baptist. It was an African American church with a large unskilled labor congregation. It is located at 628 M St NW in Mt. Vernon Square.

CS 17 St Stephans Baptist by Mm Inshaw

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.

Carter G. Woodson- Mis-Education of the Negro- Chapter 7: Dissension and Weakness

It’s Black History Month, so I am continuing with the reprint of my 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.

Carter G. Woodson- Mis-Education of the Negro- Chapter 6: The Educated Negro Leaves the Masses

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. Don’t let the title fool you this is about church.

Religion is but religion, if the people live up to the faith they profess.- Carter G. Woodson

Wikipedia uses as a citation for the claim that Woodson was an outspoken critic of the Christian Church a site that provides no deep research to back up that claim. Woodson was an expert in the subject of the Black church, having had written The History of the Negro Church, published in 1921. I’m attempting to get through this book. It isn’t as easy of a read as Mis-Education.

What little I’ve read, I see him more of an agnostic, maybe light atheist. Like modern atheists who see a general value of a theologically based society (preferably Christian) but who do not believe in a deity. Not the fire breathing New Atheist type atheists.

In this chapter I can see where Woodson sees a great value in the Black Church because, “the Negro church is the only institution the race controls.” Once again he is annoyed at the educated African Americans (when isn’t he?) who leave the Negro church for more “ritualistic” denominations. Those being Catholic and Episcopal churches. Me: Guilty as charged. Mainly because Black people church is too damned long.

Woodson mentions he once visited ” in Washington, D. C., one of the popular Negro churches with a membership of several thousands“. I wonder was it maybe Shiloh Baptist? I mean he wouldn’t have to cross the street to pop in. Anyway, at this unnamed Black church he could only spot two college graduates in attendance, and they were only there to get something (fund raising and charity).

I can read Woodson’s frustration with the Black church. “The Negro church, however, although not a shadow of what it ought to be, is the great asset of the race.” He sees the church’s potential as an organizing body and how it could serve the Black race (theology shmeology), but can’t ignore the hypocrisy, charlatan preachers, and other human failings and shortcomings that come along with the Black church and church in general.

Let’s ignore Woodson’s lack of adherence to any faith and get to the topic of the book and this chapter, criticizing college educated Black people. Black church was where the Black masses were. It was the most powerful institution controlled by African Americans. Where were the “mis-educated” educated Afro-Americans, not in the Black Baptist and Black Methodist churches. A theme throughout The Mis-Education of the Negro is that the college educated Black people lose contact and are out of touch with the common Black person.

Woodson pointed out that the problem with the Catholic and Episcopalian churches was that a Black man’s rise in those denominations was limited. This problem has been since rectified. The current presiding Archbishop of the Episcopal church is an African American man, Michael Curry. And the current Archbishop of Washington, DC, Cardinal Wilton Gregory (the 1st Black American cardinal) heads the Roman Catholic diocese. There has been some advancement for African Americans since Woodson published his book.