PODCAST: One Way Passage, Part 2; The Negro Church: A Nation Within a Nation, Part 10 (The History of Black Americans and the Black Church #41 with Daniel Whyte III)

Welcome to episode #41 of the The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast. My name is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International. Since it is hard to separate Black American history and Black Church history I am combining the two because they are so intertwined. As many of you know, the church and religion has played and continues to play a big role in the African American community. Yet, many of us who grew up in the traditional black church do not have an understanding of how our faith evolved under the duress of slavery and discrimination to be and to represent what it does today. The purpose of this broadcast is to provide that background knowledge while also pointing out the dividing line between what is just tradition and true faith in Jesus Christ.

Our Scripture verse for today is 1 John 1:9 which reads: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Our History of Black Americans and the Black Church quote for today is from Lee June, a professor at Michigan State University and the author of the book, “Yet With A Steady Beat: The Black Church through a Psychological and Biblical Lens.” He continues discussing statements which are frequently heard in the black church which he calls “innocent but dangerous.” The third such statement is: “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold.” Lee June says, “While these words are from a song, they are often uttered in other contexts and can have both a positive and negative meaning. The negative side of the statement exemplifies itself when one desires to show how special their relationship with Jesus Christ is and/or their dependence on Him. This desire is admirable. However, many times when the person utters these words, he or she is simultaneously flashing a gold watch or ring or is wearing a gold or silver necklace or arm bracelet. The person may also be driving a luxury automobile and have an expensive house. This statement can be detrimental when one does not see the contradiction in what one is saying and modeling. It can thus convey bad theology and suggest to the believer who is not well-grounded or mature to believe or feel that material possessions are in and of themselves bad, or it can imply that the Bible is totally against riches. While Jesus warned against riches, He did not reject riches (silver and gold) outright.”

In this podcast, we are using as our texts: From Slavery to Freedom, by John Hope Franklin, The Negro Church in America by E. Franklin Frazier, and The Black Church In The U.S. by William A. Banks. If you enjoy this podcast, please feel free to purchase any one of these books from our website.

Our first topic for today is titled “One Way Passage, Part 2” from the book, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin.

To further illustrate the living hell that slaves endured, some captured females were in their first or second trimester of pregnancy and these mothers were forced to deliver their children in this deplorable environment. A lot of Africans screamed and moaned to the point that these sounds were considered normal to the European captain of the ship; thus a woman could die after a natural and normal birthing of a child because no one would or could assist her with the removal of the placenta. Often, the crying babies’ screams could not be heard over the screams of the adult sufferers. Ship workers did not want the responsibility of taking care of a baby, and African babies were often thrown overboard despite the pain and agony the mother would feel.

European ship workers complained about the smell of the African while on the slave ship, despite the African’s inability to wash, bathe, dispose of bodily waste, and appropriately bury dead bodies. There were brief interludes on deck, for exercise, which was necessary for the prevention of bed-sores and stiffening of the joints. Smallpox and flux, the diseases associated with filth, were among the most common and often were lethal.

Despite difficulties with language, ship captains learned to export slaves from different tribes with different languages so as to avoid mutinous collaboration among the slaves. Despite the many precautions to avoid a rebellion, some Africans managed to successfully hijack ships. But very few could navigate the Ocean, and these ships were lost at sea. Other Africans committed suicide by either jumping off the ship or by rebelling to the point where the slave trader shot him dead. Many Africans died from disease and heartache, and many of the dead were left lying next to a living African for days. The death toll associated only with the middle passages is estimated in the millions. No one knows for sure because ship captains did not want their reputations tarnished by reports of them not having control over their ship, their crew, or their cargo. Therefore, the alteration of records was a widespread practice.

If the Lord tarries His coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.

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Our second topic for today is “The Negro Church: A Nation Within a Nation, Part 10” from The Negro Church in America by E. Franklin Frazier.

— We continue looking at The Church and Education

The impetus among Negroes to build institutions of higher education was due primarily to their need for an educated ministry. But the desire on the part of the masses for an educated ministry was far from universal. The masses of Negroes were still impressed by the ignorant and illiterate minister who often boasted that he had not been corrupted by wicked secular learning. Soon after the “invisible institution” of the slaves was integrated into the institutional church, it was feared that a schism would occur in the African Methodist Episcopal Church as the result of the conflict between the ignorant and intelligent elements in the church. Nevertheless, the African Methodist Episcopal Church succeeded in establishing a number of so-called colleges and universities. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church also established schools. The Baptists had to depend upon local efforts. In South Carolina the Negro Baptists who became dissatisfied with the white control of the college for Negroes finally established their own school.

If the Lord tarries His coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.

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Our third and final topic for today is from “The Black Church in the U.S.: Its Origin, Growth, Contributions, and Outlook” by Dr. William A. Banks.

Today we are looking at part 10 of Chapter 4: “Reconstruction and Retaliation — 1866 to 1914”

— FRUSTRATING SECULAR CONDITIONS, Continued

Writing in 1903, W.E.B. DuBois summarized: “The Negro church of today is the social center of Negro life in the U.S., and the most characteristic expression of African character. Take a typical church in a small Virginia town: It is the ‘First Baptist’, a roomy brick edifice seating five hundred or more persons. Tastefully finished in Georgia pine, with a carpet, small organ, and stained-glass windows. Underneath is a large assembly room with benches, This building is the central clubhouse of a community of a thousand or more Negroes.

“Various organizations meet there — the church proper, the Sunday School, two or three insurance societies, secret societies, and mass meetings of various kinds. Entertainment, suppers, and lectures are held besides the five or six regular weekly religious services. Considerable sums of money are collected and expended here, employment is found for the idle, strangers are introduced, news is disseminated and charity distributed. At the same time, this social, intellectual, and economic center is a religious center of great power.

“Depravity, Sin, Redemption, Heaven, Hell, and Damnation are preached twice a Sunday with much fervor; and revivals take place every year after the crops are laid; and few indeed of the community have the hardihood to withstand conversion. Back of this more formal religion, the Church often stands as a real conserver of morals, a strengthener of family life, and the final authority on what is Good and Right. Thus one can see in the Negro Church today, reproduced in microcosm, all that great world from which the Negro is cutoff by color prejudice and social condition.”

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If the Lord tarries His coming and we live, we will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.

Let’s have a word of prayer.

In closing, allow me to say that like many of you, I grew up in a very religious and church-going family, and during that time, I often heard the phrase “Being Saved.” Now, much of what the church people whom I grew up around said “being saved” was I now know is wrong according to the Bible. For example, joining the church, being baptized, doing good things, or being a good person does not mean you are saved. I wrote an article about this matter titled “On ‘Being Saved’ in Black America” which is available for you to read free of charge on our website, gospellightsociety.com. Right now, I want to share with you very briefly what the Bible says “being saved” really is.

First, understand that you need to be saved because you are a sinner. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, understand that a horrible punishment eternal Hell awaits those who are not saved. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus Christ said that God will say to those who are not saved, “depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Third, realize that God loves you very much and wants to save you from Hell. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you want to be saved from Hell and be guaranteed a home in Heaven, simply believe in Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose from the dead for your sins, and then call upon the Lord in prayer and ask Him to save your soul. And believe me, He will.

Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

If you do that today, then you can truly sing in the words of the Old Negro spiritual: Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty I’m free at last.

Until next time, may God richly bless you.