Baptists and the American Civil War: November 21, 1865

South Carolina, Georgia, Florida Coast Map

South Carolina, Georgia, Florida Coast Map

Today leading freedmen of South Carolina gather in Charleston for the first Colored People’s Convention of the State of South Carolina. In the heart of the old Confederacy, they meet in Zion Presbyterian Church. Many Baptists are among those present.

The intent of the convention is to begin charting a positive course forward for African Americans of the South. All present understand that education, denied to generations of forcefully enslaved blacks, is the key to a future of true freedom and self-determination.

“Whereas, ‘Knowledge is power,’ and an educated and intelligent people can neither be held in, nor reduced to slavery; Therefore

Resolved, That we will insist upon the establishment of good schools for the thorough education of our children throughout the State; that, to this end, we will contribute freely and liberally of our means, and will earnestly and persistently urge forward every measure calculated to elevate us to the rank of a wise, enlightened and Christian people.

Resolved, That we earnestly urge the parents and guardians of the young and rising generation, by the sad recollection of our forced ignorance and degradation in the past, and by the bright and inspiring hopes of the future, to see that schools are at once established in every neighborhood; and when so established, see to it that every child of proper age, is kept in regular attendance upon the same.

Resolved, That we appreciate, with hearts overflowing with gratitude, the noble and self-sacrificing spirit manifested by the various philanthropic and Christian Associations of the North, in providing teachers and establishing schools among us; and that we can only best testify such gratitude by heartily co-operating with them in this their great work of love and humanity.”

Meanwhile in Raleigh, North Carolina the first black college in the South, Shaw University, is founded with support from Northern Christians. The school is a Baptist college, envisioned to better the future of African Americans of the South through education.

Great hope courses through the minds and hearts of freedmen of the South, a hope promising yet tenuous. Few white Southerners have any interest in an educated black population. Hence, the continued good will and determination of Northern Christians and philanthropists is critical.

Sources: Shaw University (link) and (link); “Proceedings of the Colored People’s Convention of the State of South Carolina, held in Zion Church, Charleston, November, 1865. Together with the declaration of rights and wrongs; an address to the people; a petition to the legislature, and a memorial to Congress” (link) and (link); “Shaw University Founded,” African-American Registry (link); Shaw University (link)