Baptists and the American Civil War: July 29, 1865

Civil War States MapWith the war over and Reconstruction in the South underway, Baptist associations of the North emerge as the most “radical” Christians in terms of demanding racial justice. Throughout the Northern states, Baptists press the Johnson administration to make certain that racial equality is established in the states of the former Confederacy. Almost all Baptist associations of the North support equality for blacks.

This month the East New Jersey Association and the Niagara Association (New York) demand that Confederate leaders be punished for having rebelled against the United States.

Sussex Association Baptists declare that the outcome of the war evidenced God’s will for racial equality. North-Western Seventh Day Baptists demand “full recognition and guarantee of inalienable rights to liberty for all people.” Genesee Association Baptists reject presidential Reconstruction as too lenient, calling upon Congress to take charge of ensuring racial equality in the South. The Central Union Association (Pennsylvania) declares that properties of Southern whites should be confiscated and given to freedmen. And the Baptist Missionary Union removes New York Senator Ira Harris as president for having voted in Washington D.C. against black equality.

The tug-of-war over Southern Reconstruction is just beginning.

Source: Victor B. Howard, Religion and the Radical Republican Movement, 1860-1870, Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990, p. 97 (link)