Baptists and the American Civil War: September 30, 1865

South Carolina, Georgia, Florida Coast Map

South Carolina, Georgia, Florida Coast Map

The Big Creek Baptist Church of South Carolina today issues its first formal statement pertaining to freedpersons:

Should “colored members” leave “their former owners without leave, they shall notify the church.” They then “must apply for letters of dismission within the space of six months or their names shall be erased from the church book.”

In reality, freedpersons of South Carolina thus far have been slow to leave the white-led churches of which they have long been a part. While desirous of leaving the very churches in which white supremacy and black slavery was preached from the pulpit for generations, they remain handicapped by restrictions placed upon them by whites, evidenced most recently in the current state legislative session.

Survival — food, housing, clothing, jobs — remains almost impossible without some help from whites. For their part, whites often exploit needful freedpersons.

A mass exodus of black Baptists from white-led churches does not begin until 1866. Big Creek Baptist Church records hint of the altered trajectory of race relations when in March 1866 the church mandates that freedpersons desiring to remain with the church let their intentions be known, and only six do so.

Source: W. J. Megginson, African American Life in South Carolina’s Upper Piedmont, 1780-1900, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006, p. 287 (link)