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 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.
Oh my. I forgot I wrote this last year. Since I have no interest reinventing wheels, here’s chapter 1.
Carter G. Woodson, a Shaw resident, living and working on the 1500 block of 9th St NW, created Negro History Week. This later became Black History Month. Last year I reviewed Carter G. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro. I thought I would review his other book The History of the Negro Church this year.
I’ve read the first chapter. I want to find who edited this thing and do bad things to their grave. If Dr. Woodson edited it, then, this is evidence that authors should get someone else to edit their work.
I’m going to start with something from the book’s preface:
Whether or not the author has done this task well is a question which the public must decide. This work does not represent what he desired to make it. Many facts of the past could not be obtained for the reason that several denominations have failed to keep records and facts known to persons now active in the church could not be collected because of indifference or the failure to understand the motives of the author. Not a few church officers and ministers, however, gladly cooperated with the author in giving and seeking information concerning their denominations.
Given the current lack of popularity, compared to Mis-Education, I will say he had not done his work well. It is a hard read.
My summation of chapter one is that Blacks were a second thought to European missionaries. When they did get around to bringing Christianity to those of African descent into the New World there was a resistance because of an unwritten law (no citations) that once slaves became Christian, they would need to be freed. Catholics didn’t try hard enough and Protestants were more successful at evangelization to Blacks in America.
The one thing I learned reading this chapter was that Quakers taught African American slaves to read in Virginia and North Carolina.
I just wish there were citations for this piece of information and that gets to my first pet peeve. This book is 100 years old and historians of this period have a bad habit of not providing citations to back up anything they wrote. In the copy I have, I do not see end notes, nor is there a bibliography at the end. I blame the time period.
The other pet peeve I’ve revealed early on, was the need for an editor. This was not written for a general audience. It has the charm of a graduate dissertation. He uses $4 words when a $.25 word would do. He’s overly wordy as if he’s getting paid, per word, like a Raymond Chandler novel. The deep need for an editor, someone to strike out some sentences and suggest a better way of making a point, just annoyed the heck out of me.
I just discovered there is an audio book of The History of the Negro Church from December 2020. I will try to listen to this and maybe I’ll do more than 2 chapters this month.
2023 Update- Looking at my notes it appears that he was annoyed that the early Spanish and French missionaries in America were not focused on Blacks. For the Spanish, that’s a no brainer because they exploited the existing population for labor and didn’t need to import Africans, except in some spots. And France had what is now Haiti, and that place ate people up in the machinery of sugar production. People didn’t live long enough.
This chapter covers the late 1600s to about 1764. Geographically it wanders into Latin and South America and the Caribbean.
It’s February again, which makes it Black History Month where Shaw’s most famous resident, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History, gets some recognition. In previous years I’ve reviewed his most famous book, the Mis-Education of the Negro. Please go on over to my post from 2022.
For something a little different for 2023, we’ll look at another book of his, The History of the Negro Church. I did not like this book because it was gawdawful boring. It was informative, but dull. Despite that, it is this month’s book and we’ll look at every stinking chapter. Maybe you too may learn something about the Black church.
This book is Methodist heavy. There are many denominations in American Christianity and a fair number of majority Black churches in more than a handful of those denominations. Woodson does mention the Catholic and Anglican churches but he doesn’t seem to care for them.
I have seen write ups that claim Dr. Woodson was an atheist. His Wikipedia article says he was an “outspoken detractor of the Christian Church.” I don’t really get that from this book. He seems more like an agnostic. He’s not against the Black church, he’s just not impressed with it. In Mis-Education, he spends far more time bad mouthing ‘educated Negroes’ than he does the Christian church. He’s not a believer but he seems okay with those who are, to a point. In this book, he sees the churches as a means to an ends and an organizing body of the community he cares about. He’s very interested in the denominations’ approach to slavery and how/if they addressed it and pushed back against it. And that’s why it is Methodist heavy.
Lastly, the book was originally published in 1921 and was his 3rd book. The more notable Mis-Education of the Negro, was published in 1933, long after establishing Negro History Week (which became a month, decades after his death), other achievements, and developing the skill to write for a more general audience.