Baptists and the American Civil War: November 26, 1865

Alabama Map 1860sAlthough a mass exodus of black members from white-led Baptist churches of the South is well underway, many post-war Southern Baptist churches retain large numbers of black members. In instances where blacks vastly outnumber white members, the whites often are fearful that the majority black members will gain control of the church.

Accordingly, many churches encourage black members to withdraw and form their own congregations, often to the point of providing financial and building construction assistance. For their part, freedmen prefer their own congregations, having little interest in remaining in fellowship with the very people who had kept generations of their families in bondage in the name of God.

This month in Alabama the Mount Pleasant Colored Baptist Church, recently formed from out of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, petitions the (white) Muscle Shoals Baptist Association for membership. The association, however, refuses the request, suggesting that black Baptists establish their own association once enough churches are formed.

Four years later, in 1870, several regional Baptist churches join together and form the Muscle Shoals Colored Baptist Association. From local church to associations, black Baptists of Alabama remain autonomous of whites, a development pleasing to white and black alike.

Source: Kenneth R. Johnson, “Black American Religion: From Slavery to Segregation,” Colbert County, Alabama, African American, 1978 (link)