Relationship With the White Baptist Church
As blacks began to identify with the Baptist church in the post-slavery era, church congregations formed small local communities of blacks. They were centered around values of Baptist religion and faith, while also pursuing freedom and justice for the black race. “Throughout the South, urban black congregations sprang up to serve the spiritual, social, and political needs of the freedpeople” (Harvey 17). The establishment of the National Baptist Convention in 1880 created an institution with the ability to unite all Baptists nationwide. By 1906, according to religious census, over 61% of black churchgoers were members of the National Baptist Convention, totaling at over two milliion members (Harvey 8). As Baptists represented the largest number of blacks during this time, the National Baptist Convention became the largest organized population of African Americans in America.
Priests and church leaders simultaneously became political leaders of the black population, speaking out for equal rights and hoping for peace with white populations. Reverend E. C. Morris was one such leader, who served as President of the National Baptist Convention from 1894-1922. In his rhetoric, Morris fused together the fundamental aspects of the Baptist faith with the common ideologies of justice seeking blacks. Morris demonstrates this dichotomy in his address to Baptists at a convention event in saying, “Our purpose in gathering here as the representatives of a great Church organization are manifold, and are of vital interest to the struggling race of people as well as to our own denomination” (Morris 78). While Morris hoped to achieve equal treatment of blacks, he also hoped for a peaceful and united relationship with the white race. As being president of the National Baptist Convention earned him great respect and recognition from the entirety of the black race, his sermons and preachings were put into practice by blacks nationwide. "The white man, the black man, the red man, the yellow man, all who enlist under the banner of the Cross, will form one mighty army to go mightily against the power of darkness and with the great battering ram of the Gospel pitched, as it were, upon the universal brotherhood of man, break down the strong towers of Satan until this government shall become the kingdoms of our God and his Christ, and he shall reign forever” (Morris 40).
The work "The Negro and the White" demonstrates how the ideology of the Baptist church central to the fight against racial prejudice of the general black population. W. J. Gaines approach to the white race dispels resentment or hostility due to the brutality of slavery, yet looks to exist peacefully and amicably wite the white race. "And first I can say that there is not, so far as I know, anything like prejudice or hatred toward the white man on the part of the negro, because he is white. What the negro desires is that the white man should meet him on the broad platform of a common brotherhood and give him a fair chance in the race of life" (Gaines 196). This "common brotherhood" supports the Baptist sense of communtiy and rejection of violent and hateful action in seeking equality under the law. Gaines rhetoric is indicative of the effect that the Baptist church had on the approach blacks took in pursuing justice and equal rights. W. Harrison Daneil dicusses the general fear of the white population following emancipation of the black race. "The vast majority of [white] Baptists in the state, however, accepted the fact that the Negro would remain a permanent inhabitant of the state.They acknowledged the Negro'spresence and his free status, but they were determined to keep the Negro inwhat they considered "his place"- to segregate him as completely as possible from the activities of white persons" (Daniel 342). Advances of the Baptist church over the course in the coming years made it increasingly difficult to perpetuate this approach to the black race.
The growth of the Baptist church along with its accomplishments in the political sphere forced prejudiced white populations to recognize blacks as a legitimate population. Though Baptist leaders promoted peace and unity, in line with the general teachings of the Baptist church, they found white supremacy to be morally unacceptable. Black missionary Arthur Waddell pronounced “We act toward them as brethren, but never shall we let them rule us as masters” (Harvey 6). Many whites feared the potential for growth and strength among the black population. As the Baptist church developed into a sophisticated institution with leadership, a variety of local congregations, and a growing population, whites had to acknowledge blacks as more than simply a population of freed slaves. This recognition from the dominant race is what allowed for the advancement of blacks in society in the coming years.