“Your place is behind”: Henry McNeal Turner’s critique of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (1878)

The Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute of Hampton, Virginia was founded in 1868 by Samual Armstrong with the help of the American Missionary Association. Armstrong served as the president from 1868 to 1893.

Hampton’s most famous graduate was Booker T. Washington, who graduated in 1875 and then taught at the school until 1881 when he founded the Tuskegee Institute in the same “Industrial” model as Hampton.

Unfortunately, one of Armstrong’s fundamental goals for the school was to mold African Americans to accept their place of subordination in the post-Reconstruction South (for a detailed treatment of this, see James D. Armstrong, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935).

Henry McNeal Turner

Anderson notes that “Black criticisms of Hampton Institute received national attention in the Afro-American press during the late 1870s” (63). One such criticism came from Henry McNeal Turner (1834–1915). Turner was a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first chaplain in the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War, and was elected to the state legislature of Georgia during Reconstruction.

In 1878, Turner visited Hampton Institute. He had apparently been considering sending his daughter to attend school there, and had heard much about it, and wanted to see it for himself. His critique, published in the Christian Recorder (May 2, 1878) captures in a few paragraphs the core of the racialized problems at Hampton. It is interesting to note that Booker T. Washington was a teacher in the school at the time, and thus Anderson’s observation that Black criticisms of the “Hampton-Tuskegee Idea” which Armstrong started at Hampton and Washington carried forward at Tuskegee “long predated the Washington-DuBois debates of the early twentieth century and represented a persistent strain of black protest against the Hampton-Tuskegee Idea for the training of black educators and leaders” (65).

Here is Turner’s critique transcribed in full (an original source can be accessed here):

WAYSIDE DOTS AND JOTS.

———

By Dr. Turner

———

Theological Class at Raleigh—Portsmouth and Norfolk—Fine Congregations at each place—Hampton Normal School—Devotional Exercises—Class Recitations—Fine Buildings—How Visitors are Treated—Ladies Department—Poorly Educated—Negroes Not Capable of Higher Studies—You are Black and I am White—Change of Teachers Needed, &c.

———

Mr. Editor:—In my Dots and Jots about Raleigh, N.C., I neglected to mention a sight rarely witnessed in this country, viz. a white lady, (whose name I forgot) teaching a theological class, composed in the main of young ministers of the A.M.E. Church, though I believe two or three other denominations are represented. Their text book in Divinity, is Watson’s Theological Institutes, one of the weightiest theological works in the English language; yet this delicate and most lady drills these young men in its most difficult and abstruse subjects with apparent ease and familiarity. I recollect of no similar instance, for ladies, as a general rule, regard theology as something entirely out of their sphere. Leaving Raleigh, I proceeded to Norfolk, VA., where I stopped most of to he time at Mrs. Williams’ Boarding house. I essayed to preach for Rev. W. H. Brown, in Portsmouth on Sabbath afternoon to a fine congregation and for Rev. J. E. Cook in Norfolk at night. The churches were densely crowded and richness of attire and refinement of demeanor everywhere were dominant. These congregations have made rapid improvement since I first visited them during the war.

Elders Brown and Cook are both very popular, and command immense auditories. I lectured at the A. M. E. Church in Norfolk Monday night to a fine assembly of people, and was listened to very attentively.

Tuesday morning I went to Hampton to visit the Normal School of which I had heard much, and had considerable anxiety to see. The impressions gathered there were multifarious. I liked it and I didn’t. I arrived juts as the students were being exercised in a military drill, and must say the sight was grand. How much my predilections had to do with it, I cannot say, but as an old United States Chaplain, the sight might have been favorable because of my familiarity with the exercises. In a few moments, they all filed into the Chapel for devotional services. They sand with a vim and a sweetness, if not with artistic melody; yet is is nothing strange for colored people to sing, and I need scarcely mention it. Prayer was offered by some white gentleman, whose fervency was not discernible in hi supplications, though his faith might have been strong. I looked around in the Chapel, and must say its structure is everything desirable. On the walls I noticed likenesses of several notable characters, hanging in fine frames, giving to the walls attractiveness and beauty. Among them I noticed Washington, Wesley, Greeley, Sumner, Hayes, Andrew Johnson and Gen. Lee. What the two last had ever done for the colored people, I could not tell. I looked in vain for Grant or Butler, who was the founder of Schools in Hampton. After devotional services were over, and the latest news was read of any importance, a planisphere was brought in, and the most advanced class, (the one that will graduate in a few months) were exercised a little in astronomy. As I was somewhat familiar with this branch of science, having lectured upon it quite often, I naturally opened my eyes and ears to see and hear all i could. I was soon informed, however, that the teacher knew comparatively nothing about it, and the lass knew, if possible, less than nothing.

In Justice, however, to this class, I would say that astronomy is not a part of their studies, and this recitation was a little digression for the purpose of giving some distant idea of that science, before the class graduates.

I then visited a class room, where they appeared to be teaching agricultural and horticultural chemistry. Here i confess I was as much pleased with the thorough and rigid training apparently being imparted to the students. Indeed it was the only class I was profoundly pleased with. Whether the credit is due to the teachers’ individual interest and effort, or the purpose of the school to make that a specialty, I can not say.

My next observations were in a class room, where geographical recitations were in progress. Here I was more pleased with the improved system of teaching geography, than with any thing else. This about completed my literary observations.

One thing I must say in regard to the school building however. It is a grand structure, spacious rooms, and every convenience apparently that heart could wish; and cleanliness prevailed in every department I looked. But during my nearly two hours’ stay, not a teacher asked me to sit down, made a solitary explanation, gave me a welcome look, nor shown me the civility of a visitor, while I was in the building. When I would walk into a room, the teachers and students alike, would throw a glance at me, and thus end their courtesies. This was so very different from the High School and university manners at Scotia, Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, New Orleans, Jefferson, and indeed everywhere that I scarcely know how to interpret it, except upon the ground that “we have no time to bother with you here.” Nevertheless, I noticed when white visitors came in, chairs were offered them, etc. During my perambulations through the school edifice, I chanced to meet one of the lady teachers, rather at leisure, and I engaged her at a venture with a few words.

Said I, “you have a splendid institution here; have you a class in the higher branches?”

Said she, “what do you mean by the higher branches?”

“Well,” said I, “I mean algebra, geometry, or the higher mathematics in general, Greek, Latin, and sciences, etc.”

“Oh,” said she, “the colored people are not prepared for those studies yet. They are too ignorant. It will be time enough to talk about that years from this time.”

Her reply was enough. I wanted to hear no more. It set me a fire. I simply said, “The colored people in Virginia must be unpardonably ignorant, if your statement be correct. That does not apply to them in any other State North or South in this country,” and with these remarks, I left the house.

I did not see General Armstrong. I cannot speak his sentiments, but, of this I am satisfied, that there is a great want of respect among the white teachers of the Hampton Normal School for the colored race. I am as sure that negro inferiority is taught by act, if not by word, as I am that the alphabet is taught. And Gen. Armstrong had better revise his corps of teachers, and get those who respect the race the are teaching. They no more compare with those at Atlanta, Georgia, and many other places, than moon light compares with the sun, in those elements of character, that impart manhood inspirations to our people. After leaving the main building, I went over to the Ladies Department, and one of the white ladies, possibly the matron, sent a beautiful young colored lady to show me through the building. Here, I seemed to have fallen into another atmosphere. This lady was polite and respectful, and the young Miss, who served as my conductor, had evidently imbibed her spirit. She carried me from bottom to top, showed me every thing, and to the credit of all concerned, a grand sight it was. I cannot describe the edifice now. Suffice to say, that every thing was in superb order, and to human observation was as clear as the snow flakes of heaven.

Besides, a variety of fancy and artistic work is taught the lady students, which is calculated to support and enrich them, if they will only make use of it. If the young ladies who come out of Hampton School do not make good house keepers, good wives and mothers, so far as neatness, cleanliness, and household work is concerned, it will be because they are miserably lazy, and not because the proper training has not been given. But as I conclude this letter, I will finish by saying the buildings, yards, walks &c., have a classic appearance, and the school ought to be raised to the dignity of a College or University. Every thing is there for it, the whole surroundings, landscapes, views, &c., are fitted for the highest culture. But the teachers are not fitted for the work they are now trying to do.

They are either in the whole ex-slaveholders themselves, or are pandering to the spirit of slavery. The graduates they send out can not be called educated by any means, for they have not near the learning given by a respectable grammar school. They would not employ one of their own students to teach a class; and I do not blame them, for when they graduate their students, they know nothing comparatively—judging from what I heard and saw in the class that is to be graduated this summer. Besides, I think colored children are taught to remember, “you are negroes,” and as such, “your place is behind.”

Nevertheless, associated with the school are some grand things, and indispensable life prerequisites. With some corrections, it would be a grand place for our children. But as I went to make arrangement to send one of my daughters there, I have declined the idea after seeing it for myself.

Review: Baptist Home Missions in North America (1883)

(image taken from the title page, a stylized logo using each letter of the American Baptist Home Mission Society’s initials: ABHMS)

In 2002, Mark Noll noted that “the history of the Baptists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is a subject as scandalously neglected as had been, until very recently, the history of early American Methodism” (America’s God, 149). Nearly twenty years later, Matthew Shrader noted that “though some has been done to fill Noll’s lacuna, Northern Baptists have received significantly less historical attention than their Southern counterparts”(Thoughtful Christianity, 2). Baptist Home Missions in North America is an essential source for anyone attempting to uncover this neglected heritage (and is available for free on Google Books).

Henry L. Morehouse, ABHMS Corresponding Secretary, and editor of Baptist Home Missions in North America

The full title gives a good idea of the setting and occasion of the book: Baptist Home Missions in North America: Including a Full Report of the Proceedings and Addresses of the Jubilee Meeting, and a Historical Sketch of the American Baptist Home Mission Society, Historical Tables, Etc., 1832-1882. Baptists had a habit of celebrating the anniversaries of their associations with big commemorative meetings and often published histories in conjunction with these events. The fiftieth anniversary (“Jubilee”) of the ABHMS is what occasioned this lengthy (619 pages!) book. The book has five sections: I. The Annual Report of the ABHMS for 1881–82 (pp. 9–44); II. A detailed account of the Fiftieth Annual Meeting (45–290); III. Henry Morehouse’s “Historical Sketch” (291–540); IV. Addenda (541–56); V. Historical Table covering every missionary in every state for the first fifty years (557–619).

The two largest Baptist associations in the 19th century were devoted to foreign missions and home missions, respectively. While the American Baptist Mission Union was focused overseas in countries like Burma and India, the Home Mission Society was devoted to evangelizing and spreading Baptist principles on the advancing frontier. Along the way they dealt with every issue confronting white American Christians during that time: European immigrants, Chinese immigrants, Mexicans, Native Americans, Mormons, and every other ethnic or religious group they encountered; the slavery question (the ABHMS was the society within which the great split between northern and southern Baptists occurred over slavery in 1845), the Civil War, and then the Freedmen; schools and education; the temperance movement.

In this book you can get an idea of the ideals and motivations of nineteenth century American Baptists. As discussions of Christian Nationalism and race engulf us in 2021, it’s striking to see these same issues on full display back then as well. The “Address of Welcome” gives a good sense of the way Baptist were attempting to assimilate the flood of various immigrant and indigenous groups into a single “civilized” and “Christian” society: 

“This country, that we fondly call our own, you claim must forever belong to Christ. It was founded on this principle. This republic was rooted in religion… It seems as if our country was designed to be the battle ground of conflicting customs and ideas that should gather together from all nations upon its soil for a fair and final fight… We need the infusion of foreign life and blood to make us vigorous and strong. And if with all our God-given advantages we cannot baptize them into our spirit and stimulate them in due time to the life and laws of our commonwealth, we deserve to perish… To foreign nations we say ‘Send us over your poor and degraded you would trample under foot in your overcrowded towns and cities, and on our wide plains and prairies, under the fostering light and care of free institutions, of education and religion, we will make out of them such noble specimens of manhood as never grew on your cramped and narrow soil. We have no doubt this can be done if we will only multiply our schoolhouses and churches.”

(46–47)

This kind of “progressive” Christian Nationalism is found almost everywhere on the pages of this account, and it is important to wrestle with. These Baptists understood themselves to be under “the double inspiration of loyalty to the flag of the Union and the cross of the Christ” (144). “We are aiming to Christianize these immigrants that are coming in from all parts of the earth; the Christianize them, to Americanize them, and to baptize them if we can” (202). Quotes like this could by multiplied at length, as the celebratory nature of the meetings gave expression to the optimism of these white American Christians, and their firm belief that their work had both eternal and political and social purposes in God’s plan. There is almost a Baptist manifest destiny here, as they surveyed the west and saw their duty to spread Christian civilization there.

One particular area of interest that receives full treatment is the establishment of Black colleges in the south following the civil war, many of which would go on to become HBCUs (see also“Missionaries or Presidents”? Newton Theological Institution’s contribution to the founding of HBCUs”). The dynamics involved in this are many and they are very complex. Well-intentioned white northerners moved south to help “uplift” the poor, benighted Freedmen. This was important and necessary work, what W.E.B. Du Bois called “the gift of New England to the freed Negro” (The Souls of Black Folk, 48). However, it often came with a full dose of paternalism (on which, see Derek Chang, Citizens of a Christian Nation: Evangelical Missions and the Problem of Race in the Nineteenth Century). This subject receives multiple treatments throughout the book: “Work among the Colored People” (69–95); “Labors of Baptist for the Negro in America before 1862,” “First Work of the Freedmen,” “Work of the Freedmen–The New Era,” “Work of the Freedmen–The Work Established,” “The Society and Southern Baptists,” “James B. Simmons, D.D.,” “Schools,” “Nathan Bishop, LL. D.” (386–465). As Christians today continue to grapple with questions of race, there are valuable lessons–for good and for ill–that we can learn from efforts to cooperate in the past.

The 1880s was also a time of “reunion” with their southern brethren, and Southern Baptist like John Broadus were present at the meeting and embraced as brothers. White northern Baptists were willing to try to hold two things together: their work among Blacks in the south, and their fellowship with whites in the south, even though these often came into conflict. Baptists believed that, “In some way the Baptist North and South must come together and work together.” Yet, Basil Manly, one of the founders of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, felt that he had to “express his disagreement with some of the delegation and especially with the language of the report concerning the exercise of all the rights and duties of citizenship for the freedmen” (427). Yet, northern Baptists tried somehow to look past this in the hope that “all remembrances of the late deplorable conflict in arms between two sections of this country shall be blotted out by the blood of Jesus” (430). This puzzle of three pieces has never really been solved, and this was already evident then. (For more on the conflict between northern and southern Baptists over the education of Black people in the south, see Barnas Sears, “Objections to Public Schools Considered.”

The Historical Sketch provides an outline of names, dates, and places that are ripe for further historical investigation. Heman Lincoln, William Colgate, Jonathan Going, Benjamin Hill, Jay Backus, E.E.L. Taylor, James Simmons, Nathan Bishop, Sewall Cutting, and many many more all get brief biographical sketches. 

The sixty pages of tables in the final section of the book provide names and dates for every missionary in every state in the country. If you are interested in the history of Baptists in your city or state, you should check here to find out which Baptist Home Missionary first spread Baptist principles to the area. I’ve found the history of Baptists in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Florida fascinating (to name a few).

In all, this book is indispensable to anyone who wants to understand Baptist History, Church History, and the history of race in America, at least from a white perspective. There is a legacy here that white Christians would do well to grapple with, for good and for ill. In all, this book is a historical treasure trove, hopefully not a buried one for too much longer.

W.E.B. Du Bois on Separate Black Institutions

For centuries there have been Black institutions in America (Black churches, Black schools, Black organizations) which have existed in complex relationships to white institutions and the broader white society as a whole. An early example that captures some of the dynamics is Richard Allen, the white Methodist church, and the founding of the African Methodist Episocopal (AME) church:

By this time prayer was over, and we all went out of the church in a body, and they were no more plagued with us in the church.

The Life, Experience and Gospel Labors of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen

The question of “segregation” is complex, and it really does matter whose vantage point you view it from. When wealthy and powerful white institutions enforce segregation as a means of excluding minorities from access to those resources, segregation is an evil injustice.

But when Black people voluntarily chose to leave the “white table” in order to “build their own tables” where they would be free from the dehumanizing discrimination pressed on them in these white institutions, this kind of “segregation” is a necessity, not an evil, and creates the necessary spaces for Black people to flourish, free of unjust restrictions or the white gaze. Recent years have seen a proliferation of Black-centric organizations who have grown weary of the resistance in white churches, seminaries, and organizations. The Witness, A Black Christian Collective, The Front Porch, and The Crete Collective come immediately to mind as examples who have moved away from proximity to white evangelicalism. Some have questioned this: “If having a white church is bad, then why is it okay to have a black church?” When considering this question, it’s important to note that “segregation” must viewed from at least two angles (maybe more!) and the two are asymmetrical. Who created the separation and who is responding to the separation created? Who is creating resistance and who is responding to that resistance?

In 1935 W.E.B. Du Bois published an article in the The Journal of Negro Education titled “Does the Negro need Separate Schools?” (available on JStor here). In it, Du Bois defends the existence of separate schools, but does so with a deep awareness of the complex realities facing Black people. I would suggest that many of these factors exist today, and that Du Bois’s observations are helpful for those considering, not just separate schools, but churches, seminaries, and other organizations as well.

Here are a few choice quotes:

The question which I am discussing is: Are these separate schools and institutions needed? And the answer, to my mind, is perfectly clear. They are needed just so far as they are necessary for the proper education of the Negro race. The proper education of any people includes sympathetic touch between teacher and pupil; knowledge on the part of the teacher, not simply of the individual taught, but of his surroundings and background, and the history of his class and group; such contact between pupils, and between teacher and pupil, on the basis of perfect social equality, as will increase this sympathy and knowledge; facilities for education in equipment and housing, and the promotion of such extra-curricular activities as will tend to induct the child into life.

There are many public school systems in the North where Negroes are admitted and tolerated, but they are not educated; they are crucified. There are certain Northern universities where Negro students, no matter what their ability, desert, or accomplishment, cannot get fair recognition, either in classroom or on the campus, in dining halls and student activities, or in common human courtesy. It is well-known that in certain faculties of the University of Chicago, no Negro has yet received the doctorate and seldom can achieve the mastership in arts; at Harvard, Yale and Columbia, Negroes are admitted but not welcomed; while in other institutions, like Princeton, they cannot even enroll.

Manifestly, no general and inflexible rule can be laid down. If public opinion is such in Montclair that Negro children can not receive decent and sympathetic education in the white schools, and no Negro teachers can be employed, there is for us no choice. We have got to accept Negro schools. Any agitation and action aimed at compelling a rich and powerful majority of the citizens to do what they will not do, is useless… the futile attempt to compel even by law a group to do what it is determined not to do, is a silly waste of money, time, and temper.

Recognizing the fact that for the vast majority of colored students in elementary, secondary, and collegiate education, there must be today separate educational institutions because of an attitude on the part of the white people which is not going materially to change in our time, our customary attitude toward these separate schools must be absolutely and definitely changed.

It is difficult to think of anything more important for the development of a people than proper training for their children; and yet I have repeatedly seen wise and loving colored parents take infinite pains to force their little children into schools where the white children, white teachers, and white parents despised and resented the dark child, made mock of it, neglected or bullied it, and literally rendered its life a living hell Such parents want their child to ‘fight’ this thing out,–but, dear God, at what a cost! Sometimes, to be sure, the child triumphs and teaches the school community a lesson; but even in such cases, the cost may be high, and the child’s whole life turned into an effort to win cheap applause at the expense of healthy individuality.

We shall get a finer, better balance of spirit; an infinitely more capable and rounded personality by putting children in schools where they are wanted, and where they are happy and inspired, than in thrusting them into hells where they are ridiculed and hated.

Lack of faith in Negro enterprise leads to singular results: Negroes will fight frenziedly to prevent segregated schools; but if segregation is forced upon them by dominant white public opinion, they will suddenly lose interest and scarcely raise a finger to see that the resultant Negro schools get a fair share of the public funds so as to have adequate equipment and housing; to see that real teachers are appointed, and that they are paid as much as white teachers doing the same work. Today, when the Negro public school system gets from half to one-tenth of the amount of money spent on white schools, and is often consequently poorly run and poorly taught, colored people tacitly if not openly join with white people in assuming that Negroes cannot run Negro enterprises, and cannot educate them- selves, and that the very establishment of a Negro school means starting an inferior school… but why attribute this to a defect in the Negro race, and not to the fact that the large white colleges have from one hundred to one thousand times the funds for equipment and research that Negro colleges can command?

Conceive a Negro teaching in a Southern school the economics which he learned at the Harvard Business School! Conceive a Negro teacher of history retailing to his black students the sort of history that is taught at the University of Chicago! Imagine the history of Reconstruction being handed by a colored professor from the lips of Columbia professors to the ears of the black belt! The results of this kind of thing are often fantastic, and call for Negro history and sociology, and even physical science taught by men who understand their audience, and are not afraid of the truth.

Does the Negro need separate schools? God knows he does. But what he needs more than separate schools is a firm and unshakable belief that twelve million American Negroes have the inborn capacity to accomplish just as much as any nation of twelve million anywhere in the world ever accomplished, and that this is not because they are Negroes but because they are human.

So far, I have noted chiefly negative arguments for separate Negro institutions of learning based on the fact that in the majority of cases Negroes are not welcomed in public schools and universities nor treated as fellow human beings. But beyond this, there are certain positive reasons due to the fact that American Negroes have, because of their history, group experiences and memories, a distinct entity, whose spirit and reactions demand a certain type of education for its development.

Negroes must know the history of the Negro race in America, and this they will seldom get in white institutions. Their children ought to study textbooks like Brawley’s “Short History,” the first edition of Woodson’s “Negro in Our History,” and Cromwell, Turner and Dykes’ “Readings from Negro Authors.” Negroes who celebrate the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln, and the worthy, but colorless and relatively unimportant “founders” of various Negro colleges, ought not to forget the 5th of March,-that first national holiday of this country, which commemorates the martyrdom of Crispus Attucks. They ought to celebrate Negro Health Week and Negro History Week. They ought to study intelligently and from their own point of view, the slave trade, slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, and present economic development.

In history and the social sciences the Negro school and college has an unusual opportunity and role. It does not consist simply in trying to parallel the history of white folk with similar boasting about black and brown folk, but rather an honest evaluation of human effort and accomplishment, without color blindness, and without transforming history into a record of dynasties and prodigies.

I know that this article will forthwith be interpreted by certain illiterate “nitwits” as a plea for segregated Negro schools and colleges. It is not. It is simply calling a spade a spade. It is saying in plain English: that a separate Negro school, where children are treated like human beings, trained by teachers of their own race, who know what it means to be black in the year of salvation 1935, is infinitely better than making our boys and girls doormats to be spit and trampled upon and lied to by ignorant social climbers, whose sole claim to superiority is ability to kick “n*****s” when they are down. I say, too, that certain studies and discipline necessary to Negroes can seldom be found in white schools.

(Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash)

“Pacific Railroads will Settle the Indian Question”: the explicit militarism of the Northern Pacific Railroad, 1864–83

(map: “Map of the country from Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean. From the latest explorations and surveys to accompany the report of the New York Chamber of Commerce, April 1868,” Library of Congress)

The transcontinental railroads completely transformed the American west in the nineteenth century, for white European immigrants in search of land or gold and for the Native Americans who had been steadily pushed westward by those immigrants. Sometimes the consequences of the railroads on Native Americans have been portrayed as “unfortunate and unintended consequences.” As white Americans advanced across the continent, they brought technological advances, like the railroad, and the ultimate effect was that it destroyed the Native way of life. This was unfortunate, and perhaps even tragic (depending on the narrator), but really, these are just the inevitable side-effects of “progress.”

In looking carefully at the Northern Pacific Railroad (bidding to be the second transcontinental railroad, it eventually was the third) one finds a very different story. Primary source documents of U.S. government and military officials, as well as the proponents of railroad (trustees, engineers) repeatedly emphasize that one of the main benefits of the railroad is that it would enable the U.S. military to better fight against Native Americans; it would divide Native tribes north and south and keep them from banding together; as settlers came it would push them out and replace a “savage” population with a “civilized” and “Christian” one. Rather than “unintended consequences,” the effects of the railroad on Native Americans was very much intended–it was actively promoted as among the main reasons to build the road.

The following is a compilation of such primary sources, including Ulysses S. Grant, Generals Sherman, Sheridan, and Sanborn, Representative William Windom from Minnesota, and several other Northern Pacific reports expressing the militaristic purpose of the railroad.

WARNING: as these sources are all representative of the dominant white perspective, Native Americans are consistently discussed in derogatory language (“savages,” “inferior,” etc.). Much of this material is very hard to read, but important for grappling with true motivations of those who promoted these railroads.

Here are a few choice quotes:

The United States shall extinguish as rapidly as may be consistent with public policy and the welfare of the said Indians, the Indian titles to all lands falling under the operations of this Act”

Northern Pacific and Indian Question
Charter of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, Approved July 2nd, 1864.

Situated upon an extended and unprotected frontier, contiguous to a country now under the dominion of one of the most powerful and warlike nations of the world; traversing a territory occupied or overrun by numerous tribes of Indians, often hostile, never entirely trustworthy, it will be invaluable in times of danger, for the rapid transmission of troops and munitions of war.”

Northern Pacific and Indian Question
Northern Pacific Board of Directors (1867)

for the present the military establishment between the lines designated must be maintained at a great cost per man. The completion of the railroads to the Pacific will materially reduce this cost, as well as the number of men to be kept there. The completion of these roads will also go far toward a permanent settlement of our Indian difficulties.

Ulysses S. Grant (1867)

To construct this road will change the whole order of things at the West. It will, in an inconceivably short space of time, convert these vast plains, now laying waste and unproductive, into fruitful fields ; it will supplant the herds of buffalo, elk, and deer, with countless flocks and herds of domestic animals; it will occupy the streams of water now running waste with manufactories and mechanics’ shops, giving comfort and remunerative employment to thousands on thousands of intelligent citizens; it will extract from the mountains untold millions of the precious metals ; it will raise and utilize vast amounts of coal that now lie buried and useless in the mines; it will convert the iron and copper ores now reposing in the earth into implements for the use of man, or commodities for commerce; it will change the forests into thousands of new forms for the use, comfort, and profit of our people ; it will fill the channels of commerce with merchandise, and give additional employment and increased wealth to the busy throng that now crowd our commercial centres ; it will induce an increased emigration of the industrial classes from the Old World, and furnish them cheap and comfortable homes ; IT WILL TERMINATE INDIAN WARS, and supplant the savage Indian, who now roams over these fertile plains and rich mountains, by an intelligent, industrious, civilized population ; and, finally, it will add, almost beyond the power of computation, to the wealth and taxable property of the country

The Northern Pacific Railroad: Statement of its Resources and Merits (1868)

Can the Government afford to have the territory between the 45th and 49th parallels remain as it has done for centuries, occupied only by the Indian and buffalo? Will the people consent to have it shut out from settlement and remain a waste, for want of means of communication and facilities to reach it, when it can be made so accessible, and furnish happy homes for millions now struggling in the old world for a mere subsistence, and thus be productive of so much happiness to the human race?

Report of a Special Committee of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York on the Northern Pacific Rail-Road (1868)

The effect of the construction of this road will be… to terminate our Indian wars, and supplant the savage with a civilized and Christian population ; to increase our taxable property almost beyond computation or estimation, and thereby contribute directly and largely to the payment of the national debt, and the relief of our people.”

Report of a Special Committee of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York on the Northern Pacific Rail-Road (1868)

This road is a military necessity, and will very much stimulate the settlement of that region of our public domain.”

General Sherman (1868)

“I know that pecuniarily it would be to the advantage of the Government to help this road.” * * * “But, in addition, it almost substantially ends our Indian troubles by the moral effect which it exercises over the Indians, and the facility which it gives to the military in controlling them.” * * * “No one, unless he has personally visited this country, can well appreciate the great assistance which this railroad gives to economy, security, and effectiveness in the administration of military affairs in this department.” 

General Sheridan (1868)

“Railroads, more than all other things, extend our civilization [25] over men and remote regions, and will do more in a single decade to civilize Indians, and to compel them to abandon nomadic habits, than could be done in a century without them. The members of the commission, so far as I know, are all advocates of two more lines of road to the Pacific.”

General Sanborn (1868)

Pacific Railroads will settle the Indian Question: They can only be permanently conquered by railroads. The locomotive is the sole solution of the Indian question, unless the government changes its system of warfare and fights the savages the winter through as well as in summer… As the thorough and final solution of the Indian question, by taking the buffalo range out from under the savage, and putting a vast stock and grain farm in its place, the railroads to the Pacific surely are a military necessity. As avenues of sudden approach to Indians on the war-path, and of cheap and quick movement of supplies to troops, they are equally a military necessity.”

Report of the Majority of the Senate Committee on Pacific Railroad, February 19, 1869

Suggested Resources:

Northern Pacific Railroad Company: Pamphlets (1864–1875). (FREE on Google Books)

Angevine, Robert G. The Railroad and the State: War, Politics, and Technology in Nineteenth-Century America. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004. Chapter 9: “The Fruits of Symbiotic Exchange, 1870–1898.”

Cozzens, Peter. The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. Chapter 11: “Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.”

Lubetkin, M. John. Jay Cooke’s Gamble: The Northern Pacific Railroad, the Sioux, and the Panic of 1873. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014.

Smalley, Eugene V. History of the Northern Pacific Railroad. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1883. (FREE on Google Books)

“Fraternal” to Whom? White Evangelicalism’s Centuries-long Problem with Race

For hundreds of years white American evangelicalism has been a compromised group, like oil and water, or “iron mixed with clay” that struggles to “adhere together” (Daniel 2:43). Issues of race and slavery have been at the core of what has plagued the movement from the very beginning, and they are still plaguing us today, as black and brown Christians who bit on the promise of “multi-ethnic” churches and ministries began yet another “silent exodus” in recent years and are now “leaving loud” and shaking the dust off of their feet.

One of the factors that has caused this exodus has been the fact that time and time again “white Christians in the U.S. constantly and continually choosing whiteness over brothers and sisters in Christ” (Michael Emerson, The Grand Betrayal). Under the banner of “unity” with fellow Christians, otherwise well-intentioned Christians have remained silent in the face of divisive racialized rhetoric from their fellows. Though they maybe wouldn’t “say it that way” or “differ in some particulars” nevertheless, for the sake of “gospel unity” it is determined important to retain “fraternal relations” with their brothers in Christ.

But a crucial question remains unasked: “fraternal” to whom? Because when one “brother” begins attacking another, one is faced with a choice — will you refrain from rebuking a divisive and contentious brother in order to maintain “unity,” while permitting another brother to be attacked and not coming to their defense? In so doing, you have chosen “fraternal relations” with one brother at the expense of another, and we have seen this play out time and time again. Jemar Tisby’s testimony is just one more example of this (see: “Leave Loud: Jemar Tisby’s Story”).

None of this is new. This consistent choice to compromise in the name of “unity” has plagued white evangelicalism for centuries. One particular controversy from the 1850s seems instructive for navigating our times now, the controversy surrounding one of the largest white evangelical ministries of the day, the American Tract Society. In their effort to maintain ties to “both sides” they failed to take any clear moral stand, and the end result was a split. The lukewarm position of the “white moderate” has always proved dissatisfactory on any issue demanding moral clarity, but it has never satisfied the white-supremacist side either. Eventually iron and clay must separate and the idol topple over. (For an account of William Lloyd Garrison’s engagement with the ATS, see “We have much theology, but what does it amount to?”: William Lloyd Garrison’s critique of the American Tract Society”).

Here is a paper further exploring this controversy and the various compromises displayed in it:

Here are a few quotes from the paper:

The Weymouth and Braintree Female Anti-Slavery Society held the conviction that separation from fellowship with slave-holders was “an essential requisite of Christian character. ‘If any man love not his brother whom he hath seen, he cannot love God whom he hath not seen. No man can love his brother and enslave him, or connive at his being enslaved, or apologize for or commune with the enslavers… By this rule do we judge and reject the majority of the American churches, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and the American Tract Society and other kindred societies. By this rule, too, do we judge the so-called evangelical churches of this town.”

The ATS adopted five resolutions, including, that, “the political aspects of slavery lie entirely without the proper sphere of this Society, and cannot be discussed in its publications; but that those moral duties which grow out of the existence of slavery, as well as those moral evils and vices which it is known to promote, and which are condemned in Scripture, and so much deplored by evangelical Christians undoubtedly do fall within the province of this Society, and can and ought to be discussed in a fraternal and Christian spirit.”

“William Lloyd Garrison introduced a series of resolutions condemning the ATS yet again, for pretending to move on the issue, while not moving at all. He mocked the resolution passed by the special committee of the ATS. They were now willing to discuss “those moral duties which grow out of the existence of slavery.” Imagine a tract on  “‘The moral duties growing out of the existence’ of piracy, high­way robbery, and burglary ! Why, these are sins to be exterminated at once, and the moral duty is to slay them at once.”

“Does any moral duty throw out of drunkenness, to the drunkard, except that of immediately turning from it? Does any moral duty grow out of adultery, to the adulterer, except that of immediately turning from it? Does any moral duty grow out of either of these sins, to those in the community who have not committed them, except utter opposition to them, at all times and in all places? It is utterly absurd to speak of any moral duty but this growing out of a sin!”

“The society wished to discuss slavery, and all other issues, “in a fraternal spirit.” But Charles K. Whipple posed the crucial question: “Fraternal to whom? To the slave, sympathizing with his bondage ‘as bound with him’ [Hebrews 13:3]? Is there the slightest probability that Rev. Baron Stow, with those members of his ‘respectable white’ church who have a vote in the Tract Society, had this in their minds when they voted?”

On the contrary, “fraternity” and “Christian spirit” had always been extended toward slave-holders, not to the slaves nor to anyone too ardently anti-slavery. Whipple’s judgment was that the Boston society was gaining “the reputation” of opposing slavery without having taken any real steps to actually do so, and that the majority of people were being deluded into believing that they had done their duty by supporting Boston and not New York. Whipple concluded that this belief was “pernicious,” was “an acceptance of something false as true,” and as “a direct, and gross, misleading of the minds of men in regard to the actual truth.”

Doug Wilson and the Association of Christian Classical Schools

The Association of Christian Classical Schools is a national organization headquartered in Moscow, Idaho. It was founded by Douglas Wilson in 1994, and “provides accreditation for CCE [Classical Christian Education] schools” (see “Classical Christian Education and Doug Wilson” and the Christianity Today September 2019 cover story “The Rise of the Bible-Teaching, Plato-Loving, Homeschool Elitists“).

At present (March 2021) there are over 300 schools listed in their nationwide directory. A number of colleges and businesses are listed as “affiliates” and number of prominent evangelical figures “stand with ACCS” in including Albert Mohler, Eric Metaxas, John Piper, and Rod Dreher, as well as ministries like the Nehemiah Institute, and Desiring God.

In 2002, Preston Jones, professor of history at John Brown University, published an article on classical Christian schools (“Christian Classical Learning” pp. 12–13). Jones noted Wilson’s role in the classical Christian education movement and the founding of ACCS, but suggested that “If the Christian classical schools movement is going to be taken seriously in the academic world in the long run, its members would probably do well to distance themselves from some of their current leaders.” He noted Wilson’s views on southern slavery, and the book Southern Slavery as it Was, co-authored by “a neo-Confederate Presbyterian minister and League of the South leader named J. Steven Wilkins.” This book, published by Wilson’s publishing house Canon Press, “maintains, among other things, that the antebellum South was, literally, a holy land and that slavery bred mutual respect between the races— indeed, that relations between blacks and whites were never better than in the South before the Civil War.”

Jones noted that “Wilkins has been a speaker at major conferences of the ACCS, and at their national conference in Memphis last June were featured the wares of a neo-Confederate vendor.” He did note that “most of the parents who send their children to schools affiliated with the ACCS aren’t aware of the nature of some of the leaders’ views.”

In 2016 ACCS was denied accreditation in the state of Tennessee specifically because of Doug Wilson and his views on race, slavery, and other issues (“Bill yanked after school group founder’s views on slavery, homosexuals, adultery revealed”). However, it appears that in 2019, Tennessee reversed course and granted accreditation to ACCS member schools (Tennessee HB1392).

In 2016, the current president, David Goodwin, tried to address some of the controversy surrounding Wilson and create some distance between the organization and its founder (“A Response to ‘Classical Christian Education and Doug Wilson’”). Though Rachel Miller’s article explicitly references Wilson’s views on “theology, history, slavery, patriarchy, marriage, and sex,” Goodwin chose to sidestep these issues, referring only generally to the “theological debates that have involved Mr. Wilson” and noting that “Mr. Wilson certainly offers food for thought.”

Goodwin says that Wilson, “takes specific care not to exert influence on the ACCS.” However, it is interesting to note that:

  • Wilson is listed as an “Educator in Residence” at ACCS.
  • Wilson is featured as a plenary speaker every year at their national “Repairing the Ruins” conference (here’s the 2021 lineup; past and future speakers include Al Mohler, Rosaria Butterfield, and Joel Beeke)
  • Three out of their top five  recommended books are by Wilson, more than any other author on the page. 
  • If you wish to know “What is CCE [Classical Christian Education]?” and click “Read About It” one of Wilson’s books is considered “Foundational for new teachers and parents.”
  • Doug Wilson’s affection for the white-supremacist Robert Lewis Dabney is also reflected in ACCS book recommendations, which includes the Canon Press republication of Dabney’s “Secularized Education.” (For those needing to get caught up, here’s “What’s So Bad About R.L. Dabney?”). However, some might think “just because someone has bad ideas in one area (white supremacy) doesn’t mean they can’t have good ideas in another (education).” Unfortunately, Dabney’s views of education were thoroughly influenced by his white supremacy. Sean Michael Lucas notes in his biography of Dabney that after the Civil War, Dabney opposed public education and particularly the education of the formerly enslaved people of the south. He thought public education was “heretical” because of its “leveling impulse” because “God had ordained a hierarchy of superiors and inferiors.” He also objected “for fears of racial mixing” and opposed the philosophy that “claims to make the blacks equal, socially and politically, to the most respectable whites” (Robert Lewis Dabney: A Southern Presbyterian Life, 182–86). It’s disturbing to see Dabney’s work on education recommended by the ACCS, though I’m sure this has been edited of any overtly racist sentiment before republishing.
  • Doug Wilson’s Omnibus curriculum is used in a number of ACCS schools (a quick search of of the school listing found schools from California, to Minnesota, to Missouri, to Maine using this curriculum). Consistent with Wilson’s views of southern slavery, the curriculum includes an assignment asking students to: “Write a letter to a friend in the North who thinks that all slaves are mistreated and beaten. Explain how your family treats your slaves well.” (Omnibus III).

Nearly twenty years after Preston Jones wondered if the Classical Christian Education movement might want to “distance themselves from some of their current leaders,” there are no signs of that happening. In fact, ACCS has become more and more mainstream and has found support from several prominent figures. Back in 2002, Jones assumed that Wilson’s views “aren’t widely taught in ACCS schools.” That may be true. Parents, however, may wish to do a little homework of their own, asking about the level of affiliation and influence of Doug Wilson before entrusting the formation of their children to an ACCS school.

(Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash)

Christian Religion in the Twenty-Seventh Massachusetts Regiment, 1861–65

(image: Henry A. Hubbard, descended from missionary David Brainerd)

Abraham Lincoln famously noted that both sides of the Civil War “read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.” While much has been made of the “Christian character and piety” of Confederates like Robert E. Lee, Christian belief and practice was ever present in the Union Army as well as the North as a whole (see for example Massachusetts Baptists and The Civil War).

William P. Derby’s, Bearing Arms in the Twenty-Seventh Massachusetts Regiment of Volunteer Infantry During the Civil War 1861–1865 (Boston: Wright & Potter Company, 1883) is an example of a “regimental history,” histories of particular regiments compiled and published after the war by members of those regiments (see more on regimental histories here). Derby’s account of the 27th Massachusetts contains a number of references to Christian practice and belief, some of it incidental, some of it in the form of Biblical allusions, and some of it in extended accounts of religious services. Attached here is an edited compilation of a number of those references as an example of the various ways that Christianity infused the Union War effort.

An important note is to be made regarding the depiction of African Americans in Derby’s account. Racism was prevalent in the Union Army, and even the “best intentioned” white soldiers still held patronizing and condescending views of the newly freed slaves. When reading Derby’s accounts of Black church services, one must often read “against the grain” of his white perspective to see more clearly the rich religious belief and feeling expressed in the Black church.

Nevertheless, this is a fascinating look at the role of Christianity in the Union Army, one that could doubtless be repeated across any number of the hundreds of regimental histories available.

Here are a few quotes:

[As the regiment was preparing to leave for the front]: “Sunday, October 20th, [1861] Rev. Henry M. Parsons, pastor of the First Congregational Church, Springfield, [Massachusetts] preached upon the grounds an eloquent and stirring sermon from 1 Cor. 16 : 13 — ‘Quit yourselves like men ; be strong'” (16).

To the Citizens of North Carolina : … We are Christians as well as yourselves, and we profess to know full well, and to feel profoundly, the sacred obligations of the character. No apprehensions need be entertained that the demands of humanity or justice will be disregarded. We shall inflict no injury unless forced to do so by your own acts ; and upon this you may confidently rely” (74)

“On the morning of the 9th, as the troops were awaiting orders to move, Chaplain Woodworth rode along the line, saying,“Boys, this is the Sabbath, and as we cannot have other religious exercises, can’t we all join in the Doxology!” Comrade Oliver A. Clark of Company A, to whom music and the sentiment were both inspiring, led off in a clear, strong voice. Like electricity it sped from line to line, and the rising sun witnessed five thousand warriors with uncovered heads, singing“ Praise God from whom all blessings flow” (140).

“If Nicodemus would not wake under such fervency as moved the crowded cabin at that midnight hour, melody and volume will do little to accomplish it. Emancipation was to them a great jubilee, and in the realization of long -deferred hope, every power of body and mind was thrown into this melody which expressed their faith in God’s deliverance” (217).

“Sunday, May 22d, [1864] was a sad day, as with depleted ranks we gathered for divine service, and reviewed the terrible experiences of the previous week. Fervent prayer was offered, that God would shield those who had fallen into the enemy’s power, and temper the winds to the bereaved at home. While we were engaged in this service, Maj. Gen’l Martindale arrived, and, dismounting, remained with uncovered head until the close, joining tears with us over lessons drawn from the lives of comrades slain” (292).

[At the siege of Petersburg, 1864]: “It seemed as if the sun were standing still a second time, and this time for the benefit of the Amorites” (339).

[In prison in Andersonville, Georgia 1864]: “When the storm had passed, and the waters had receded to the banks of the stream , it was found that the swift current like a faithful scavenger, had cleared the swamp of all its filth, and that at the foot of the hill and just over the dead line, a spring of clear, cold water had burst forth, sufficient to supply the wants of the entire camp. This spring continued to flow undiminished, until our departure, a constant reminder of God’s miraculous care and intervention. No Moses had been sent to smite the rock, but none the less had the Almighty cleansed this Gehenna by floods of water, and opened the fountains of the earth to minister to the wants of his suffering creatures” (381).

Massachusetts Baptists and The Civil War

In January of 1861 Massachusetts governor John Andrew issued a call for volunteers to serve in the Union Army and recruiters began gather troops in various towns in the state. Baptist pastor H.L. Wayland of Worcester resigned his pastorate to become the chaplain of the 7th Connecticut Volunteers, serving from 1861–64. Other graduates of Newton Theological Institution also served including George Henderson as a chaplain, and Daniel Litchfield in the United States Christian Commission (The Newton Theological Institution General Catalogue 1835–1912). Albert Arnold, in his 1861 report for the Worcester Baptist Association, noted that “almost all our churches have representatives in the armies that have been assembled to put down a rebellious conspiracy against the lawfully constituted authority of the land” (Fifty-Ninth Annual Report of the Massachusetts Baptist Convention).

The Massachusetts Baptist Convention met in November 1861 in Boston and approved a series of resolutions on the war:

Resolved, That we regard the existing revolt against our National Government, not only as a breach of human law, but as a wanton rebellion against the authority of God; and whether we consider the sovereignty which it spurns, or the iniquity which it seeks to enthrone, it must be contemplated with execration and loathing by all unprejudiced and God-fearing men.

Resolved, That inasmuch as this unrighteous war against a good and beneficent government, is waged avowedly in the interest of African Slavery, which has been authoritatively set forth as the corner-stone of the so-called Southern Confederacy, the fact ought to open the eye of all loyal men as to the character and tendencies of that system of abominations, and to lead the public authorities to avail themselves of every measure justified by the spirit of the Constitution, and demanded by the political or military exigencies of the time, for its eradication from the land…

Resolved, That we recognize in the present mournful state of our country, the righteous visitation of a jealous God; and that we can look for salvation only by turning away from our vain boastings, by repairing the wrongs which we have practiced against the weak, by renouncing the greed of our avarice, and by dealing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. 

(Historical Sketch of the Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Society and Convention, 1802-1902).

A official copy of these “strong and patriotic resolutions” was sent to President Lincoln and to his cabinet. William Seward, the Secretary of State, replied, noting that he had given them to Lincoln. The President had received “with pleasure and gratitude the assurance of the Massachusetts Baptist Convention that its intentions and influence will be unanimously given in favor of the efforts which the government shall make for the public safety in the crisis to staying and so important” (“Response from the Government,” Christian Watchman and Reflector, January 23, 1862).

If many of these establishment Baptists had previously been only moderately anti-slavery, and unwilling to break fellowship with their southern brethren over the issue, the precipitation of war had pushed them over the edge, and they whole-heartedly supported the war effort. Baptists who had hesitated to condemn slavery too strongly now called it an “abomination” and called for it to be eradicated (though Lincoln would not emancipate the slaves until 1863). The federal government welcomed their support, and recognized the importance that ministers, even Baptists, could play in encouraging widespread support for the war efforts. 

As the war continued, so did Baptist pronouncements in support of it. On August 20 and 21 of 1862, J.L.A. Fish was appointed the moderator of the Worcester Baptist Association, filling the role left by H.L. Wayland. Besides the usual activities, the war was on everyone’s mind, and “strong union resolutions were passed respecting the state of our country” (“Worcester Association,” Christian Era, August 29, 1862). A letter was read on “the Necessity and Encouragement to Special Prayer for the Holy Spirit in this time of trial. Free utterance was given against ‘the sum of all villainies’ now casting its shadow over us, and confidence urged in God alone” (Christian Watchman and Reflector, September 4, 1862).

The 1862 American Baptist Missionary Union met in Providence, Rhode Island. They noted that one year previously, “everything without and around wore an aspect portentous of evil to our people, our government, and our missionary operations. No man could tell what a day would bring forth, and all were shut up to hope and faith in Him who ‘alone doest wondrous things.’” Now everything had changed: “In a year, we have lived a generation, if we reckon time by the number and magnitude of the events it brings forth… You may thank God and take courage. You may thank Him for placing you in a position where you might learn lessons never received in a day of material and outward prosperity.” The ABMU passed the following resolutions on the war, a remarkable expression from the largest Baptist society in America:

The officers and members composing the American Baptist Missionary Union, assembled at their annual meeting in the city of Providence, May 27th and 28th, 1862, deem it incumbent on them as patriots, and not for­eign to their sphere as a religious Association, to give this public expres­sion of sentiment in reference to the present stupendous crisis through which the nation is passing. 

Resolved, That we regard the war now waged by the National Govern­ment to put down the unprovoked and wicked rebellion that has risen against it, and to establish anew the reign of order and of law, as a most righteous and holy one, sanctioned alike by God and by all right-thinking men, involving our very life as a nation, and every thing precious depend­ ing on that life, and related most intimately to the progress of civilization, freedom and Christianity throughout the earth. 

Resolved, That we believe the institution of slavery to have been the principal cause and origin of this attempt to destroy the government, and that a safe, solid and lasting peace cannot be expected short of its complete overthrow. 

Resolved, That we tender to the President of the United States and his associates in the government our hearty confidence, sympathy and support, with the assurance of our fervent prayer that the same Divine Hand which has so manifestly guided them in the past may lead them on to the full and triumphant establishment of union, justice and liberty over the whole coun­try and among all ranks and conditions of its people. 

Resolved, That a copy of this preamble and these resolutions be sent to the Secretary of State, signed by the President and Secretary of this meet­ing.

(The Missionary Magazine (1862), 214.)

Baptists also published their views in religious periodicals:

Newton Theological Institution professor Horatio Hackett published an entire book depicting the Christian influences in the Union Army: Horatio B. Hackett, Christian Memorials of the War: Or, Scenes and Incidents Illustrative of Religious Faith and Principle, Patriotism and Bravery in Our Army. With Historical Notes (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1864). Hackett wrote this book because he:

thought it might be a grateful service to the friends of our brave solders, as well as an act of justice to the soldiers themselves, and because I felt a hearty interest in the work. Facts like those here spread before us are adapted to give us our strongest impression of the intelligence, the earnestness, the Christian principle and heroism of so large a class of men, who have come forward to support the Government in this great emergency.

Hackett, Memorials of the War, (vi).

In 1866 the Boston South Baptist Association approved several striking resolutions on the aftermath of the war and the initial stages of Reconstruction:

Whereas, The nation is evidently passing through an exceedingly critical juncture in its history, the judgment of civil war having been succeeded by the only less heavy judgment of official recreancy and dereliction, and the struggle with open treason by a bitter struggle with the pseudo-loyalty of those in the high places of power; and

Whereas, The peace and victory for which we gave devout thanks at our last meeting have been so far frittered away that treason is again asserting its sway; reenacting the worst horrors and outrages of the barbarities of slavery, driving loyal pastors from their pulpits, burning the churches of the freedmen and massacreing Union citizens for the simple offence of loving liberty and praying for its triumph, therefore 

Resolved, That in these sad and painful events we recognize a clear warning of God against the folly and crime of suspending the appointed penalties of law, and substituting a weak, sentimental leniency for a wholesome, rigorous punishment of civil crime. 

Resolved, That while as Christian citizens we are bound to accord all due respect to the Chief-Magistrate of the nation, we nevertheless cherish profound aversion for his plan of reconstruction, whose only issue thus far has been the reconstruction of an exploded rebellion and the rehabilitation of perjured rebels. 

Resolved, That we extend our warmest sympathy to our Union brethren in the South who are reaping the bitter fruits of this policy, some of whom are now exiles and wanderers in consequence of it. 

Resolved, That in this exigency it is meet that all Christians, with a firm reliance on Almighty God, should constantly beseech him for his gracious assistance and succor, that harmony and brotherly love may be restored, that the sundered portions of our country may be again united, and that perfect civil and religious equality may prevail throughout the length and breadth of our country. 

Resolved. That we regard the assassination of our late beloved fellow-patriot and Christian brother, Rev. Jotham W. Horton, at the hands of the police of New Orleans, as one of the natural results of that “policy” In its restoration by the executive pardon of conquered but unrepentant traitors to all their former power of mischief:—and that we recognize in the deliberate murder of that faithful minister of Christ at his post of duty, a sign of the times that proves the still unabated bitterness of the hatred to free institutions which cost our country the calami­ties of war, and that speaks with a trumpet warn­ing to all loyal citizens to guard the future peace and liberties of the nation by choosing for their leaders men who will rule in righteousness.

“Boston South Baptist Association,” Boston Evening Transcript, October 12, 1866

Jotham Horton was a graduate of Newton, and his death in the New Orleans Massacre of 1866 outraged Baptists in Massachusetts (See also J. Ellen Foster, Jotham Warren Horton). Baptists in Massachusetts remained concerned about the state of the country, particularly the condition of the Freedmen in the South. This would spur a number of northern Baptists to go and serve directly in the efforts of Reconstruction through the American Baptist Home Mission Society as well as other agencies.

Records like these form an important counterpoint to Lost Cause depictions of religion in the Confederate Army. After trying so hard for decades to maintain “fraternal” relations with their southern brethren, the tensions proved too much. Once the breach was made, Massachusetts Baptists became ardent supporters of the Union cause. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, both sides “read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other,” and Baptists in Massachusetts were as fervent in this as anyone.

“The Problem of Evil and its Relation to the Ministry to an Underprivileged Minority”

Fall 2020 I took a class on “the problem of evil,” and decided to write a paper exploring Richard Ishmael McKinney’s work on the problem of evil from a Black perspective.

McKinney earned his Bachelor of Divinity at Newton Theological Institution in 1934 and wrote a thesis paper on “The Problem of Evil and its Relation to the Ministry to an Underprivileged Minority.” McKinney would go on to a PhD at Yale, and then a lifelong academic career in philosophy in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. McKinney’s life spans nearly the entire range of the 20th Century as a Black academic serving in Black schools, though unfortunately his academic career would essentially remain behind the shadow of ‘The Color Line’ of segregation and Jim Crow.

Here’s the introduction to the paper:

All of the work on the problem of evil that I have been exposed to has been written by white theologians and philosophers, either Christian or otherwise. Often their examples and reflections betray their status from the highest of upper classes, those afforded the opportunity to pursue PhD level education at elite universities, and then to go on to academic and publishing careers. Yet an important voice seems missing, the voice of the marginalized. Interestingly, there are identifiable traditions of Black Theology and Black Philosophy that have wrestled with the problem of evil from within the context of the Black experience in the United States. This paper will explore one vein within these traditions, that provided by Richard I. McKinney (1906–2005), and the thinkers he engaged with, including W.E.B. Du Bois and Howard Thurman, seeking to discover what unique contribution this tradition has to offer to our thinking on this topic.  We find that Black theologians have a unique perspective on the Problem of Evil from their perspective within a marginalized community, a perspective that is vital to hear when engaging this subject.

The bibliography includes as nearly a complete c.v. for McKinney as I could construct.

You can read the whole thing here:

Here are a few quotes:

These peoples voice their experience thus: “Why must I or my people suffer? Is my kind cursed of God? Why, if God is good, does he let injustice go on? Is not God himself partial to certain races? What about these inequalities in human life?” In the face of these questions, McKinney asks: “What in view of these facts, are the resources of religion for such suffering?”

McKinney would later suggest that “Doubtless Jesus himself would be outraged if he were to witness in the flesh some of the un-Christian and undemocratic practices of the institution and people which bear his name.”

McKinney claims that “In general, the Negro spirituals represent one of the most significant aspects of Negro life in America.” Here it is worth pausing to make an observation regarding theological method. Normally, students of theology focus our attention on written texts, great works of systematic theology or philosophical theology. One thinks of the “Great Books,” including works by Jonathan Edwards or (for some traditions) the great Reformed Theologian Robert Lewis Dabney. Why is it that we don’t have works of theology from the same time period written by Black Christians and thinkers? Individual theologians like Jonathan Edwards or Robert Lewis Dabney were afforded the luxury of time and energy to think and to write, in part, because they owned African slaves. Theological institutions like the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary were sustained, in part, by the labor of slaves and the financial support of slave-owners. What could the enslaved produce? Songs. And a case could be made that the source material for a more genuine form of Christianity will be found in these spirituals, than in the books that were written on the backs of those who sang them.

Howard Thurman captures the deep paradox and opportunity seen in Black Christianity: “the slave took over the religion of the master and became a traditional Christian. In many ways this fact is amazing as well as ironical. It was a fateful moment in the life of the new world when the African slave was brought face to face with the Christian religion. It may be that then, as now, this black minority was called upon to redeem a religion that the master and his posterity disgraced in their midst.”

In facing the problem, McKinney does not want us to pull any punches: “he would be Christian in this world must not close his eyes to any of its facts. The problem of evil and suffering is a fact, and a very immediate one for many people; and as such it cannot be lightly explained away. We must not be afraid to look at life with open eyes.”

McKinney regularly referred to a quote from Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History: “the noted historian Arnold Toynbee asserted that it is likely that a revitalization of Christianity, if it comes at all, will come as a result of the religion of the Black people.”

Christians seeking to find a more authentic expression of Christianity, the family of those who follow the crucified and risen Lord, would do well to look to the Black church tradition, and will find there abundant resources for engaging the problem of evil, and numerous other situations as well.

2021 English and Greek Bible Reading Plans

I found a plan for reading through the Greek New Testament in one year over at Lee Iron’s site several years ago, but it was a pdf and needed to be updated each year. I loved this plan so much, I made my own for reading the English Bible through in one year as well. Two principles are at work: (1) chapters longer than 38 verses are broken into two readings; (2) extra day(s) added at the end of each month in order to build in space in case you fall a day or two behind.

For my English Bible reading I use the NKJV. The plan is arranged in Hebrew canonical order (Law, Prophets, Writings), and not the typical English Bible order (which follows the Septuagint). I switched to Hebrew canonical order several years ago and have loved the effect it has on my reading through the OT.

For the NT, I read the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine text which (rightly!) places the Catholic Epistles immediately after Acts, rather than the Pauline epistles. Again, I love reading James, Peter, John, and Jude up front, rather than towards the end of the year. I wonder how our theology might shift if we gave slightly more prominence to these books than we typically do. I use this plan to get through the Greek NT in a year, but you could use it to read through the NT in English as well if you’d like.

So, for that tiny group out there who hopes to read through the the Bible following the Hebrew and old Greek canonical order in 2020, here are a couple of plans to print out and check off as you go:

Whole Bible Reading Plan (2021)

NT Reading Plan [Greek or English] (2021)