Baptists and the American Civil War: January 9, 1865

maryland_civilwar_mapIn Union-controlled Tennessee, formerly enslaved African Americans, many of them Baptist, are publicly expressing their sentiments to the state’s politicians, including Governor Andrew Johnson.

African American attorney John Mercer Langston, born a slave, is one of the most prominent voices. On January 2, he addressed some 3,500 Unionists, 3,000 of them black, declaring that the war had freed all Tennesseans, black and white. Governor Johnson, present in the audience, then recruited Langston for further speaking engagements.

Nashville’s black citizens, inspired by Langston, today send a petition to Tennessee’s Union Convention. Insisting that slavery must be abolished by the state’s Constitution, the petitioners declare that “We claim freedom, as our natural right,” while also voicing fidelity to the Union.

Many black Baptists are among the petitioners, and the sentiments thus expressed doubtlessly represent the sentiments of Nashville’s black Baptist population at large.

The war and Emancipation has also aided in the advancement of Northern black Baptists. Today in Maryland the Baltimore Association for the Moral and and Educational Improvement of Colored People today opens the city’s first school for blacks. The first classes are held in the African Baptist Church on the corner of Calvert and Saratoga streets.

As an outgrowth of the school is the establishment, in 1935, of a four year training program for elementary teachers, later evolving into Bowie State University.

Sources: Bobby L. Lovett, The African-american History of Nashville, TN: 1780-1930, University of Arkansas Press, 1999, pp. 67-68 (link); “Bowie State University, Strategic Plan 2007-2012” (link); “Bowie State University,” Wikipedia (link)