Baptists and the American Civil War: November 9, 1865

North Carolina MapIn North Carolina in October the Johnson administration’s appointed provisional governor, William Holden, opened the first post-war convention in the state.

Central to the convention was the United States’ demand that North Carolina repeal her secession ordinance. For three days delegates (all white) argue over the wording of an anti-secession ordinance, finally passing the ordinance by a vote of 105 to 9.

Today the ordinance is up for ratification by state voters (all white), who support it by a vote of 20,870 to 1,893. Even so, the state legislature remains defiant, putting forth in late November a bill that would disallow the United States government of any power or authority to act on behalf of the civil or political rights of freedmen, a bill that ultimately fails due to the recognition of current political realities.

North Carolina’s story is similar to those in most other states, where white Southern leaders, chaffing at the fall of the Confederacy and no less insistent that blacks are fit only for servitude to the white race, comply with the demands of the victorious United States government in the letter of the law only. They remain determined, in short, to propagate white supremacy and black servitude, seeking every opportunity to do so, but realizing that it may take time to accomplish their goal. In this matter they are quite right, as over a decade passes before defiant white Southerners, deploying terrorism against freedmen and Northern oversight, manage to regain control of their political processes and begin formally returning black citizens to a state of servitude that is effectively a mere step or two away from their former status as slaves.

Within this epic saga that plays out this day in North Carolina and throughout the South in the decades to follow, black Baptists comprise a large percentage of the freedmen population. Now, they are steadily leaving the former white-led churches of which in the days of slavery they were forced to attend, establishing their own autonomous congregations that serve as community centers of spiritual, social and economic advancement.

Sources: Robert Sue Alexander, “Convention of 1865,” NCPedia (link); James Edward Bond, No Easy Walk to Freedom: Reconstruction and the Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1997, p. 53 (link)