Baptists and the American Civil War: September 29, 1865

lincoln_1863novIn Raleigh this day the first Convention of the Colored People of North Carolina convenes, a gathering “novel to the white people.”

Prior to the end of the war and the defeat of the Confederacy, such an assembly was not merely unlawful, but inconceivable. Even now, many delegates from distant towns and cities traveled to Raleigh cautiously, often at night, “so as to avoid observation” due to “a strong under-current of feeling adverse to the whole affair.”

Some 150 delegates are present, determined “to do their best for the interests of their race.” In the midst of a world of white supremacy undaunted by war-time defeat, some attendees are adamant in demanding “civil rights,” others more cautious.

Many Baptists are among the delegates who gather at Raleigh’s Loyal African M.E. Church, otherwise known as the Lincoln Church, due to a statute of the late president within the sanctuary.

From this gathering come a number of resolutions, including:

Resolved, That we are in favor of our Government and the Union against all enemies at home or abroad, that our fathers fought to establish and we will fight to maintain them, that we will not hesitate in the prompt performance of our duty to the nation in her hour of peril, and that we will prove by our habits of industry and respectability, that we are worthy of citizenship among the people of North Carolina.

Resolved, That we hall the event of emancipation, the establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau, protecting the Interest of the colored people of the South — the recognition of the Independence of Hayti and the Republic of Llberia; the admission of Mr. Rock, to the bar of the Supreme Court; the establishment of schools for more than 75,000 freed children; the proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution, and its indorsement by various State Legislatures; the progress of an enlightened sentiment of moral obligation and progress of Republican liberty everywhere with joy and thanksgiving, as turning a bright page in our history, etc.

Resolved, That we hail with satisfaction the efforts of that portion of the Republican party of which Messrs. Chase, and Sumner, and Stevens, and Greeley, are the heads, to secure to the colored citizens their rights through the action of Congress, against any and all who oppose those rights.

Resolved, That we view with pride the rapid progress that is making on the part of our young men in the [Illegible] our cause of education, in the pursuit of all honorable industry, the organization of Lyceums, etc., also thanking various editors who were publishing papers devoted to equal rights for all men.

Due to the ideology of white supremacy yet prevalent throughout the South, freedom for black citizens gathered in Raleigh this day and living throughout the former Confederacy is fragile and endangered. Convention delegates depart with the hope that they will be able to secure the rights promised to them by the U.S. Constitution and wrested from Southern elites by Abraham Lincoln and the United States Army.

Source: “State Convention of the Colored People of North Carolina, Raleigh, September 29, 1865” (link)