This little note ties in with one of the articles in this week’s church bulletin (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On this day in 1867 a note in the church minutes of the Kiokee Baptist reads, “The Baptist Church of Christ at Kiokee met and proceeded to the ordination of Brother Billy Harris, colored, to preach the Gospel.”
Throughout American Baptist history there have been many examples of a positive relationship between blacks and whites. In 1639, John Clarke organized the Baptist church in Newport, Rhode Island, and a few years later “Jack, a colored” was baptized and added to the church’s membership. Living in Rhode Island, Jack was most likely a free man. But in the south slaves were often received into local Baptist congregations. In fact, in some churches the blacks outnumbered the whites up to as many as six to one. In the First Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia, “colored deacons were elected, whose duty it was to watch over (the needs) of slave and free Negro members.” That church also licensed certain colored men, who seemed fitted by God to “exercise their spiritual gifts in public” – ie. to preach the gospel of Christ. A man named Lott Carey, a member of the church in Richmond, was able to raise $850 with which he purchased the freedom of his family. Then he, with Collin Teague, in 1821, sailed for Liberia, establishing the first Baptist Church in Monrovia.
After the War Between the States, there was pressure to organize separate churches for the blacks, and many prominent churches willingly authorized and supported those churches, acknowledging and training young men for ministries in those churches. Such arrangements explain why for more than a century, the South was filled with sound doctrinal and evangelical churches among both races.