PODCAST: Colonial Slavery, Part 7; Negro Religion in the City, Part 22; Radicalism: 1915 – 1953 (The History of Black Americans and the Black Church #73 with Daniel Whyte III)

Welcome to episode #73 of the The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast.

Our Scripture Verse for today is Romans 10:9 which reads: “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.”

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 writes, “In a report of a nationwide survey of more than 2,600 adults, titled “Ethnic Groups Differ Substantially on Matters of Faith, the finding was that Blacks were the segment with the most traditional Christian beliefs and practices. Specifically, Barna found that Blacks had the highest percentage on the following dimensions compared to Whites, Asians, and Hispanics:

– read the Bible in the last week (59%)
– attended religious service in the past week (48%
– prayed to God in the last week (91%)
– participated in a small group in the past week (31%)
– strongly agreed that the Bible is totally accurate (57%)
– strongly disagreed that Jesus Christ sinned while on earth (49%)
– was a born-again Christian (47%)

Additionally, Blacks had the lowest percentage that said they were atheist or agnostic (5%).”

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.

Our first topic for today is titled “Colonial Slavery, Part 7: The Carolinas and Georgia, Part 2” from the book, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin.

Carolinians had not established their controls too soon, for as early as 1711 there were rumors that blacks were getting out of hand. In 1720 several slaves were burned alive and others were banished because they were implicated in a revolt near Charleston. In subsequent years there were other revolts or rumors of revolts. In 1739 the well-known Stono Rebellion twenty miles west of Charleston threw the countryside into a state of wild excitement. After slaves killed two guards in a warehouse and secured arms, they went on a full-scale drive to destroy slavery in that area. The uprising was put down, but not for several days and not before thirty whites and forty-four blacks had lost their lives. As Peter Wood has said, the black majority in South Carolina would be a continuing cause of apprehension. Later in the century there were other uprisings, and the general state of affairs led to a full-scale revision of the slave code.

Before the Revolution, South Carolina, now divided from North Carolina, had enacted one of the most stringent set of laws governing slaves to be found anywhere in the New World. The selling of liquor to slaves was prohibited. Owners were warned against undue cruelty to slaves which might incite them to revolt. Owners were prohibited from working slaves more than fifteen hours per day between March 25 and September 25 and for more than fourteen hours per day between September 25 and March 25. These last few provisions were a tacit admission that slaves could be driven to revolt. What Carolinians realized all too late was that slaves were not as tractable as they had believed and that the danger of having so large a slave population in their midst was more real than fancied.

If conditions were at all ameliorated among Carolina slaves, it was the result of the efforts of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. SPG missionaries sought to raise the level of living among both whites and blacks. In some instances they met with considerable success. They suggested that slaves should be given time to study the Scriptures and to learn to read and write. In many cases they taught slaves themselves, and in one notable instance they fostered the establishment of a school for blacks in Charleston in which the teachers were slaves owned by the SPG. While these were significant ameliorations, they were also evidences of acceptance of the basic idea of enslavement, and with the religious sanction that the SPG gave to slavery, planters felt more secure than ever in their belief in the righteousness of the institution.

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


Our second topic for today is “Negro Religion in the City, Part 22: Negro Cults in the City, Part 8” from “The Negro Church in America” by E. Franklin Frazier.

Only relatively brief attention can be given to those cults which belong more specifically to the Spiritualistic group. It seems that the Spiritualist cult in Chicago was founded in New Orleans and transplanted to the North. This cult flourished especially during the Great Depression. It should be noted that it borrowed its hymns from the Baptists and Methodists, and its altar candles and statues from the Catholic Church. The preachers and mediums wore colourful robes and offered healing advice, and ‘good luck’ for a prayer and the price of a candle or holy flower. The mediums claimed direct contact with the sources of wisdom. The Spiritualist cult was differentiated from the Holiness cult by the fact that the former was not opposed to card-playing, dancing, or ‘sporting life’. It was rumoured that it might give advice in playing the illicit lottery game, known as ‘policy’ or ‘the numbers’.

We come finally to two cults which are of considerable importance because in them the Negro does not seek salvation in the usual sense but finds an escape from his identification as a Negro. One of these cults is the Church of God or Black Jews. The cult was founded years ago by a Negro, known as Prophet F. S. Cherry, from ‘the Deep South, which he refers to as a place worse than hell’. He is a self-educated man who has travelled over the world as a seaman and worked as a common labourer all over the United States. Prophet Cherry welcomes educated men to his church but takes a special pleasure in ridiculing educated people and making fun of their manners and ways of thinking. He seems to get a great deal of pleasure from his vituperations against the clergy whom he calls ‘damn fools’ and ‘vultures’. On his pulpit there is always a Bible in Yiddish and another in Hebrew since he is conversant with these two languages. He does not wear a special dress as the leaders of many cults, except occasionally when he appears in a black academic gown, the sleeves having yellow stripes.

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


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 16 of Chapter 5: “Radicalism: 1915 – 1953”

Learning to be God: Joseph Washington considers the Father Divine Peace Mission Movement as a combination “faith-healing” and “holiness” cult. Frazier also states that the movement is the most important and most widely known of the holiness cults. The “holiness” is seen in the group’s tenets which include no undue mixing of the sexes, no smoking, drinking, dancing, vulgarity, profanity or obscenity, and no receiving of gifts, presents, tips, or bribes.

Who was Father Divine? George Baker–that was his name before he became “God”–was born on a plantation to sharecropper parents in about 1865 on Hutchinson Island on the Savannah River, Georgia. In 1899 he met the Reverend St. John the Divine Hickerson, a dynamic Black mystic, in Baltimore, Maryland, where Hickerson was pastor of a Baptist church. Baker met another Black preacher of great personal magnetism or charisma, Samuel Morris, who somehow convinced Baker that since God dwelt in him, he was God and so entitled to divine authority. Baker and Morris teamed up, then Hickerson joined them in 1908. The trio continued until 1912.

Dissension split their ranks when a dispute rose over who was really deity and who was not. Baker headed back South, preaching that he was “God.” Arrested in Valdosta, Georgia, in 1914, he refused to give his name; the court writ read: “The people vs. John Doe, Alias God.” Found guilty as a community menace, he was run out of town. In 1915 he arrived in New York City with some of his followers and once more he contacted Hickerson, and again became a student of the art of being “God.” Shortly after coming to New York, he married Penninah, one of his faithful followers, from Valdosta, Georgia. However, J. Austin Norris, Father Divine’s attorney, stated that Father actually married Penninah on June 6, 1882. In 1941 Penninah disappeared from public view and only after Divine had married a second time in 1946 did he admit to his followers that his first wife had died.

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.