PODCAST: The History of Black Americans and the Black Church #74 with Daniel Whyte III

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with episode #74 of the The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast.

Our Scripture Verse for today is Acts 4:12 which reads: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must 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, “Given these statistics, the “Black Church” continues to be in touch with most of the Black population (though there is an increasing number of African Americans who are attending and/or members of a predominantly White congregation— a phenomenon that needs studying). With this large reach, questions must be raised, such as, why is there not a greater impact on certain negative behaviors within the African American community? Why are there more men between certain ages in prison than in college? Why are the HIV AIDS infection rates so high? Why in certain ways does there appear to be an overall “moral decline”?

One response to this set of questions could be that it is unfair to place these issues at the feet of the church. Another answer might be that these are complicated issues and it takes more than the church to solve them. Another answer might be that congregations vary tremendously in terms of impact based on their typology or model. However, whatever the answer might be, one should pause to ask the further question of whether the church is realizing its full potential. Can and could the church be doing more? If indeed the church and Christians are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world,” then something must be wrong. In addition, what is the major religious challenge to Christianity?”

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 8: The Carolinas and Georgia, Part 3” from the book, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin.

The presence of Quakers in North Carolina had a salutary effect on the conditions of slaves in the colony. They urged the establishment of regular meetings for slaves, and Quaker slaveholders were urged by their coreligionists to treat their blacks well. Before the end of the colonial period there was some sentiment among the Quakers to discourage members from purchasing slaves, and finally, in 1770, the organization described the slave trade as “an iniquitous practice” and sought its prohibition. Members of the SPG also sought to improve conditions among blacks as well as Indians and, as they had done in South Carolina, blacks encouraged masters to permit their slaves to attend religious services.

It is interesting to note that there was no real slave insurrection in North Carolina during the colonial period. The fact that the slave population was relatively small and that there was little impersonality on North Carolina plantations was doubtless responsible for this peaceful situation. In comparison with neighboring colonies, North Carolina presented a picture of remarkable calm in the period before the War for Independence.

Georgia was the only important New World colony to be established by England in the eighteenth century. It differed in several significant ways from the earlier English colonies: it was to grant no free land titles, to permit the use of no alcoholic beverages, and to allow no slavery. From the time of its establishment in 1733, however, each of these proscriptions was subjected to enormous pressure from the settlers, and one by one the restrictions collapsed. It was in 1750 that the third petition of the colonists brought about the repeal of the hated prohibition against slaves. From that point on the black population grew and slavery flourished. By 1760 there were 6,000 whites and 3,000 blacks. In 1773, when the last estimate was made before the War for Independence, the white population had increased to 18,000, while the black population numbered some 15,000.

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 “Negro Religion in the City, Part 23: Negro Cults in the City, Part 9” from “The Negro Church in America” by E. Franklin Frazier.

As the head of the cult Prophet Cherry appoints elders, who may take his place in the pulpit, deacons, deaconesses and secretaries who supervise the finances and the routine affairs of the organization. Membership in the organization is open to any ‘black’ person. While it is highly desirable that new members should have a religious experience involving a vision or some kind of ‘spirit possession’, this is not a requisite for membership. This cult looks with disfavour on ‘speaking in tongues’ and emotion, though holy dancing within decent limitations is regarded as proper. There is no collection of money during services though there is a receptacle hanging at the door for donations as people enter the church and members are required to pay tithes.

The sacred text of the cult is really the Talmud instead of the Bible but the prophet always refers to the Hebrew Bible as the final authority. The members of the cult think of think of themselves as Black Jews and insist that the so-called Jew is a fraud. They believe in Jesus Christ but claim that he was a black man. According to them the Black People were the original inhabitants of the earth. Moreover, God is black and Jacob was black. The enslavement of the Negro and his emancipation were foretold in the Bible and the world will never be right until Black Jews occupy high places in the world. Such beliefs provide the basis of the sermons by the Prophet. After the Italians invaded Ethiopia, he railed against the Pope for condoning the invasion and predicted that Hitler would drive him out of Rome. Services are held on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings and all day Saturday, which is regarded as the Sabbath or Holy Day. The members of the cult do not observe Christmas or Easter. Funerals are to be held in funeral parlours and the deceased, who can only be viewed by very close relatives, must be taken from the house as soon as possible.

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

Divine Retribution: In 1919 his church had nearly two dozen members. Needing more space, he bought a two-story frame house for $2,500 in the all-White community of Sayville, Long Island. Then he opened a free employment bureau and soon began to take in the poor and needy and feed them. He was then known as Major Devine, but a few years later he changed the spelling to Divine. The White neighbors thought it was bad enough having Blacks in the neighborhood, but when busloads of Blacks came from Harlem every weekend to eat fried chicken, pork chops, salad, vegetables, and dessert (it was during the Depression) they began complaining.

The loud all-night singing and chanting of Father’s followers and the fact that women were living in the house were reported to the authorities. On November 15, 1931, the house was raided on the charge of disturbing the peace. Father’s bail was canceled and he was jailed as a public nuisance during the trial. Eighty of his members were also arrested. The judge, State Supreme Court Justice, Lewis J. Smith, having no respect for Father’s deity, sentenced Father Divine to one year in jail and fined him $500.

Smith, a Presbyterian, was disgusted to hear educated White men and women testify that Father Divine was God personified. This sentencing occurred on May 24, 1932. Four days later, Judge Smith, apparently having been in excellent health, dropped dead of a heart attack. He was fifty years old. Father Divine was told about it while in jail, and is quoted to have said, “I hated to do it.”

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.