Baptists and the American Civil War: November 25, 1865

J. L. M. Curry

J. L. M. Curry

Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, during the war a member of the Confederate States House of Representatives and an officer in the Confederate Army, is a prominent Southern Baptist. Now, he serves as the president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention and of Baptists’ Howard College. In January 1866 he is ordained to the Baptist ministry.

Today’s (Alabama) Montgomery Advertiser publishes a recent speech in which Curry offered his thoughts on the importance of educating former slaves.

Tellingly, he is not complimentary of freedmen.

“One thing particularly, I take the liberty to suggest: that is the proper religious instruction of those who were formerly our slaves. If this be not attended to at once; if it be not done liberally, speedily, and on a large scale, they will relapse into barbarism, perhaps cannibalism; and the land be filled with evils from which the imagination shrinks back in horror. If it be not done by us, it will be done by those alien, and to some extent hostile to us.”

The pattern of post-war white Southerners projecting their own antebellum and war evils (the barbarism of enslaving fellow human beings, the refusal to educate slaves, the evils slave owners committed against their chattel) onto freedmen is unfounded, arrogant irony. The fear that Northern Christians, including Baptists, will come to the aid of freedmen by assisting them in the attaining of freedoms and rights, however, is very real, and is already happening.

Many white Baptists of the South resolutely resist such efforts, determined to keep black Southerners in post-slavery servitude.

Source:  J. L. M. Curry speech, Montgomery Advertiser, November 25, 1865, in in Walter Lynwood Fleming, Documentary History of Reconstruction, Political, Military, Social, Religious, Educational & Industrial 1865 to the Present Time, Vol. 2, Cleveland, Ohio: Arthur H. Clark, 1907, p. 246 (link)