The Ills of the South: Charles Otken and the Social Gospel in Mississippi

Merrill Hawkins Jr.

Merrill Hawkins Jr. is Professor of Religion at Carson-Newman University.

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Merrill Hawkins Jr., "The Ills of the South: Charles Otken and the Social Gospel in Mississippi," Journal of Southern Religion (18) (2016):

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In 1894, G. P. Putnam’s Sons of New York published The Ills of the South: or Related Causes Hostile to the General Prosperity of the Southern People. Written by Charles H. Otken, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Summit, Mississippi and superintendent of the Pike County Schools, The Ills of the South represented an early expression of the Southern Social Gospel, addressing economics and race and proposing solutions based on systemic change. His economic proposals, grounded in Populist themes, offered general criticisms of capitalism and a specific recommendation to abolish the credit system associated with the crop-lien system. His proposals to improve the lives of African Americans included an immediate recognition of legal rights for African Americans, an end to lynching, and, ultimately relocation to Africa. Otken grounded all three of these proposals in a form of paternalism shaped by white supremacy and class elitism. His proposals for colonization challenged white dominated society by calling for the removal of a source of inexpensive labor and indicting whites as incapable of offering long-term guarantees to African Americans of their civil and human rights. Charles Otken proclaimed in his one major publication a Social Gospel solution to economic strife and racial conflict both offered too many challenges to the power structure and provided too few solutions to racial matters to gain more than a brief, national hearing.

Otken has not escaped the attention of scholars, although not in any detailed study. In an article on the Social Gospel, the Encyclopedia of Religion in the South mentioned that “Mississippi Baptist minister Charles Otken [who] wrote one of the finest expos of Southern economic traditions.”[1] John Lee Eighmy’s 1969 seminal article arguing for the presence of the Social Gospel in the South described a broad range of laity and clergy working through various movements as evidence of this tradition, including Otken. According to Eighmy, Otken “combined Populist ardor with muckracker reporting to expose the evils of the crop-lien system.”[2] In addition to these articles that cite Otken as an example of a southern based Social Gospel, numerous other studies note Otken’s text as an example of late nineteenth century criticism of the economic order associated with the cotton-based economy.[3]

Accepting the premises of these earlier articles that Otken stood in the tradition of the Social Gospel, this article explores the Mississippi minister, educator, and writer in depth as a Social Gospel figure. My use of the term, “Social Gospel,” follows recent definitions and descriptions by Susan Hill Lindley, Susan Curtis, and Elna Green. Their use of the term refers to a broad and diverse set of different reform movements and individuals across the United States, with three common traits: a religious orientation, an interest in systemic causes of injustice (not just symptoms), and location in or with proximity to the Progressive Era.[4] Otken possessed all three of these traits: he was an ordained minister whose writings reflected a theological orientation, he proposed systemic corrections to the problems of race and economics, and he wrote his message at the close of the Populist Era and the dawning of the Progressive Era in the South. While Otken succeeded in publishing a book with a national circulation, he failed to translate his book’s proposals into laws and policies addressing economics and race. His failure stemmed from two reasons, Otken’s leadership style and the unpopularity of his proposals. Otken placed his energy solely on writing and not on building an organization or promoting his ideas with government leaders. Although he had connections to state political leaders and was himself a leader in the Baptist denomination, he did not use those connections to promote his agenda. However, it is uncertain that Otken would have succeeded in gaining supporters had he engaged in more direct advocacy beyond his writing. His proposals simply did not have popular support. His proposal to end credit and the cotton-based farm system challenged the economic order that undergirded his chief political allies, the Bourbon Democrats. His impractical advocacy of African American colonization also threatened the economic order that rested on the exploitation of inexpensive labor, something Otken firmly rejected. Moreover, Otken’s call for African American limited civil rights and his criticism of lynching constituted a rejection of the dominant approach of the white power structure, which sought to divide working class whites and African Americans. Otken’s Social Gospel challenged the white power structure too much and offered African Americans too little as equal participants. The Social Gospel succeeded in gaining advocates in the South. Otken’s story sheds light on why the Social Gospel failed to gain many followers.

    Formative Years and Early Leadership

Louisiana in the pre-Civil War years received a sizeable German migration, with settlements in New Orleans and in what was then the uptown city of neighboring Carrollton. This influx included Dirk Otken in the 1830s, followed by his siblings and their families a few years later. The elder Otken was a devout Protestant and a charter member charter member of St. Matthew’s Evangelical Church, a heritage that his son, Charles, born in 1839, followed in the years ahead. When one of the numerous Yellow Fever epidemics of the region took the life of Dirk Otken’s wife and three of their children in 1845, the young Charles Henry Otken moved to nearby Carrollton to live with relatives.[5]

The Carrollton relatives belonged to Coliseum Place Baptist Church, which Charles joined in 1854 at age 15. Developing an interest in studying for the ministry, Otken enrolled at Mississippi College two years later. With the advent of the Civil War, Mississippi College suspended its operations and many of its young men entered the military. Otken was no exception. The young student served as a private and chaplain in the Charlton Rifles of Raymond, Mississippi. As the war drew to a close in 1864, Otken sought ordination by the St. Francis Street Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama.[6] The ordination letter noted that Otken belonged to Baker’s Creek Baptist Church in Mississippi, “which is now partially disorganized in consequence of the War.”[7] Acting as a “presbytery” with the “consent and advice of the St. Francis Street Baptist Church,” five men examined Otken’s soundness for ordination by questioning his “experience of grace, his call to the ministry, and his view of Christian doctrine.” Finding him acceptable, the “presbytery,” chaired by Rev. S. H. Ford of Memphis, commended him for ordination.[8]

After the war, Otken arrived in Amite County, Mississippi, became a teacher, and married Francis Lea, daughter of a planter in the county. In 1865, he assumed the pastorate of Liberty Baptist Church in the county seat, while continuing to teach. One year later, he accepted an additional pastorate, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. In 1867, he resigned his teaching and ministerial positions and moved about thirty miles east to become superintendent of the new Peabody School in Summit. The Baptist congregation in the Pike County town quickly hired him as its pastor.

Churches with congregational polity, particularly white Baptist churches, annually reviewed the minister’s performance at the end of the year and voted whether to retain or dismiss the pastor. Twice during his ministry, the congregation removed him as a result of declining membership. Each time his contract was not renewed, Otken remained an active and irenic member of the congregation, holding various offices, including that of church treasurer. A few years after his first removal, the congregation hired him again. After his second removal, he remained a member and continued a positive relationship, a most unusual response to pastoral termination.

The minister who succeeded Otken after the first removal, W. E. Tynes, worked very well with Otken in the congregation and in statewide denominational leadership. Summit Baptist Church elected both Tynes and Otken, after his removal as pastor, as delegates from the congregation to the Mississippi Baptist Convention in 1877.[9] During this period, Otken first expressed support for the social responsibilities of Christianity by creating a new institution, Lea Female College. Tynes wrote a strong endorsement of the institution and of Otken’s leadership, placing an article in the state denominational paper with hopes of securing Baptist support for the school. In 1894, Otken shifted his leadership from Summit to the neighboring city of McComb, where he become president of the McComb Female Institute, and, in 1903, the chief administrator of the Pike County Schools, serving until his death in 1911.[10]

Otken’s work as a pastor provides some information about his theological identity. He expressed a warm, revivalist and conversion-oriented piety, rather than a strict, doctrinaire Calvinism. One of his sermons explicitly rejected strict Calvinism and its low view of the role of human agency. Humans were not predestined as to their eternal lot, according to Otken. Instead, each human had the full agency to accept or reject the Christian religion, a position setting him apart from more doctrinaire Calvinists with their concept of predestination. Rejecting the notion of a limited atonement, Otken proclaimed that the effect of the death of Jesus of Nazareth “covers the sins of the whole world” and “is as extensive and broad as the entire human race.” Humans were free to accept or reject the Christian religion and their acceptance of the faith is what makes the sacrificial death of Jesus “efficacious.”[11]

Otken also expressed a traditional Baptist affirmation of religious liberty and church-state separation, complete with the anti-Catholic rhetoric characteristic of Baptists and other evangelicals of this time period. He most clearly revealed these perspectives in his brief manuscript detailing the life of the first Baptist minister in Mississippi, Richard Curtis. Otken’s celebration of Curtis presents the story of the minister’s attempts to start a Baptist congregation in the Spanish-controlled Natchez Territory before statehood. Otken crafts the story as that of a religious minority being denied its freedom to practice the faith by the laws of the land, a recurring theme in Baptist identity writings. According to Otken, from 1789-1798, “there was no freedom to worship God in the Natchez Territory, then claimed as part of the Spanish possessions in America.”[12] When the Spanish arrested Curtis, his “sole crime,” according to Otken, was that he “preferred the pure worship of the soul to the empty ceremonious homage of Rome.” In describing the creation of the region’s first Baptist congregation, Otken disclosed as much about his own orientation as he did about Curtis. His language revealed a belief system that placed him squarely in the dominant southern evangelicalism of Mississippi at this time.[13]

During these years, Otken served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Mississippi College, from 1882-1894. Based on attendance, Otken did not provide active leadership on the board. Board records indicate forty-nine meetings over this period, with some years having as few as three sessions and some years having up to six sessions. Otken did not attend his first meeting until 1884, two years after being named a member. He next attended the June session of 1887 and the 1891 sessions in July and August. After 1891, he did not attend a session until January 1893, the last session he attended. In July 1893, although the board met in Summit at the Otken School Building named for him, Otken was not listed on the roster of those in attendance. The board held five more sessions during the time of Otken’s term, but he did not attend those meetings.[14]

Otken did involve himself as a board member in response to the removal of college president, W. S. Webb. After a time of conflict with the faculty of Mississippi College and an investigation by the board, the trustees secured the resignation of Webb in June, 1891, in a meeting not attended by Otken. One month later, Otken attended a board meeting and introduced a motion that the board rescind its action against Webb, which it did for a one year term. Several weeks later, Webb sent a message to a meeting of the executive committee of the board, declining the offer. In August, Otken attended the board meeting and made a motion that a formal note be entered into the record that Webb had been named Professor Emeritus after his removal as president.[15]

Otken also served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the University of Mississippi from 1877-1881, appointed by Mississippi Governor John M. Stone. A resident of the northeast corner city of Iuka, Stone worked as an agent of the railroads before entering state politics as a Bourbon Democrat. As governor, Stone served non-consecutive terms and held the office longer than any other person, ascending to the office on three occasions. In each Stone Administration, the state rescinded various aspects of Reconstruction Era reforms, including the creation of a two party state and biracialism.

Stone’s first ascent into the office involved a statewide purge of Republican elected officials. When the legislature impeached the Lieutenant Governor, Governor Adelbert Ames resigned before he could be removed. His departure left Stone, President Pro Tempore of the State Senate and a Democrat, next in line of succession. In the election of 1877, with no Republican on the ticket, voters elected Stone in a commanding landslide. During his first fully-elected term, Stone took steps to continue the removal of state leaders with connections to Reconstruction and the Republican Party by targeting appointed levels state boards and agencies. The University of Mississippi’s Board of Trustees, while not particularly partisan in its administration of the institution, could not escape this restructuring. The Stone Administration worked to secure mass resignations of board members, replacing them with Democratic, anti-Reconstruction trustees, one of whom was Otken.[16]

The Stone connection provides important background to the political alliances that Otken forged, alliances that show him to be affiliated with Bourbon Democrats more than Populists. Mississippi possessed robust and diverse agrarian movements, including the Grange, the Farmers’ Alliance, populist advocates within the Democratic Party, and various third party movements, including the Greenback Party and the Populist Party. The Democratic Party also possessed, as did state Democratic parties across the country, a Bourbon wing allied with planter, railroad, and industrial interests. As in other parts of the country, the Bourbon wings and the agrarian/populist wings of the Democratic Party often clashed. The agrarian wing of the Democratic Party included Frank Burkitt, Putnam Darden, and Ethelbert Barksdale, among others, each of whom had connections to the Populist Movement in Mississippi and considered involvement with the Populist Party.

The nature of Mississippi Bourbons adds complexity to the fault lines in the Democratic Party. Mississippi Bourbons could not be seen as uniformly anti-small farmer. While Bourbons were united in their support of the planter class and railroad interests, some Bourbon leaders also advocated agrarian policies that attracted support of pro-farmer leaders in the Grange and the Alliance. This approach constituted an agrarian-oriented Bourbon Democrat, an approach absent from the Bourbon movements of other states, of which Stone was the chief exemplar. Firmly allied with the Bourbons, Stone’s leadership appeased agrarians in many of achievements. For example, Stone promoted the creation of an agricultural college, culminating in the founding of Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College at Starkville, which gained him significant farmer support, including that of Grange leader Putnam Darden. The agrarian wing of the Mississippi Bourbons, rather than the anti-Bourbon agrarians or the third party Populists, provided the ideological home for Otken, as well as his source of patronage.[17]

The Baptist denomination, however, continued to provide Otken with his largest forum of leadership. From 1881-1884, Otken wrote a series of articles on higher education. In these articles, Otken offered some of his first thoughts on the contributions that the Christian religion owed to the larger society, especially through the influence of its colleges. In his first article in the Baptist Record, Otken addressed the nature and purposes of the churches, lamenting that they “can do much more in promoting the gospel than is now done.”[18] By “much more” and “promoting the gospel,” Otken meant that the Christian religion needed to do more than focus on individual conversion. Focusing on religious conversion while ignoring social needs is “like judging the value of a watch by its face and time hands, without considering the delicate machinery within the case.”[19] Humans should accept “the duty of churches to establish schools and to promote culture [which] is infinitely higher than the duty of the State to assume this work.” Working for social betterment would motivate more people to become devout Christians, he believed. Equally important, social action would make the world a better place. “The gospel,” he wrote, “not only aims to make man an heir of heaven, but so far as his residence upon earth is concerned to present him as the noblest type of manhood, intellectually and in all his desires.”[20]

Otken’s next several articles addressed the importance of liberal arts education in developing social awareness and the critical need for Mississippi Baptists to embrace this type of education. The liberal arts and related disciplines nurtured character as much as they expanded the body of knowledge. Without character, virtue, and morality, Otken argued, education had no value and perhaps did great harm. In his first article on the topic, Otken agreed that education required the “accumulation of facts,” but “[i]t is all that and attention to physical and moral development.” The cultivation of moral development, or virtue, for Otken, was synonymous with the values of Christianity.[21] In fact, he warned that education devoid of the cultivation of morality or delivered by teachers and professors who did not possess a certain inner quality actually harmed society. A professor has the duty to “bring his pupils under the all-pervasive and controlling principles of Christianity.”[22]

Otken’s next article on higher education provided some specific details about social morality, foreshadowing ideas that would come in his book ten years later. For example, Otken challenged to the role of a market based economy in education, speaking against unrestricted capitalism for the first time. Without a moral underpinning, education would establish its priorities by the needs of market and economic forces, which Otken claimed round counter to promotion of the common good and the Christian religion. He feared that a moral standard in education can be easily dismissed when market values determine the priorities of education, including curriculum. Values should determine actions, including market actions, not vice versa. “The world is full of market honesty, market integrity and market truthfulness,” Otken wrote in this third statement. “They are readily sold when the occasion presents itself, and are haggard substitutes for the genuine article,” he argued.[23]

Otken also addressed the nature of Christian higher education as secular or non-sectarian and he proclaimed a role for education that was distinct from the work of a congregation. Churches should support higher education in order to influence the common good of society. Churches should not create colleges that duplicate the sectarian work of the congregation. It is “the duty” of Baptist congregations to promote certain doctrines, he stated, but “is this the business of Christian schools? Do they teach the doctrines held by our denomination? Certainly not.”[24] Otken contended that church related colleges should provide the formal education and training of “doctors, merchants, artisans, and farmers who . . . can control the affairs of their respective communities” and “who control legislation.” An institution with these aims “will bless society at large and promote the cause of our blessed Redeemer.”[25]

    The Social Gospel Message of The Ills of the South

Otken’s successful writing in the state Baptist paper motivated him to address larger issues and seek a national audience. After completing a manuscript on economic and racial matters, Otken began the arduous task of securing a publisher. Success did not come quickly. In August 1893, he received his first rejection letter from the Baker and Taylor Company. Baker and Taylor’s agent wrote that it was “not at all probable that we should be disposed to issue the book at our own expense,” although the company representative agreed to review the publication in order to “examine it and give you a definite decision.”[26] Otken then approached C. L. Patton of the University Publishing Company in New York. Patton had more promising words for Otken, agreeing to “do all in my power to assist you in finding a suitable publisher” and informing him that the Baker-Taylor Company was not a publisher, but a bookseller. Patton soon reported that he had met with a representative of D. Appleton and Company, who found the manuscript appealing. He offered to approach Houghton, Mifflin, and Company at the end of September when travelling to Boston, believing that publisher would have an interest.[27]

Four weeks later, Patton followed up with Okten on his trip to Boston. Houghton, Mifflin, and Company did indicate an interest in reviewing the book for publication, although they noted that the topic, social reform, “was not in their line of specialties at the moment.” More importantly, the company provided a valuable suggestion and contact. Patton wrote that “they called my attention to the fact that G. P. Putnam’s Sons of this city, are making a specialty of works on political economy and related subjects.”[28] Patton intended to meet with George Haven Putnam, president of the company, but he called on the business on a day when George was out, meeting instead with one of the brothers. Their meeting was favorable, leading Patton to conclude that the Putnam business would publish the manuscript. Not only did the Putnam enterprise show interest, its established reputation with similar books meant that “a larger general sale would be assured…if published by them” than with Macmillan or Appleton.[29]

Otken hoped that his book would have wide sales in the South, especially among Southern planters. Patton advised him that wide sales in the South of a book published by a northern based business were not likely “for reasons you will understand.” For wide readership in the South, his best option was securing an Atlanta or New Orleans business, and Patton recommended an Atlanta-based publisher, the Franklin Printing Company. Patton believed that this new company, whose owners included the Atlanta Constitution, as well as the Baptist-affiliated paper, the Christian Index, had the “abundant capital” and the network to gain “a large sail in the cotton growing states.” A southern publisher, though, did not attract Patton. He envisioned something bigger for the book and for Otken’s standing as a new author. Patton believed that a southern published book would have limited influence because it “will be regarded as local and must possess rare power to become known outside its horizon.”[30] Going with G. P. Putnam’s Sons promised greater sales among the public outside the South and would make the book national, rather than regional. A nationally recognized book “will go much further toward making a reputation for the author than would be possible if it were published South. . . . [because] the reputation which the author makes on a successful book is a national reputation.” Patton had connections with northern and southern publishing houses, but he clearly desired Otken to seek the New York based Putnam option.[31] Otken agreed to take the next steps of having his manuscript reviewed by Putnam, which resulted in an agreement with them. Otken was to pay for the printing plates for the publication of his book, a standard practice for first publications. By December, Putnam had carefully reviewed the book for publication, returned it to Otken for revisions, and promised a copyright contract.[32]

The Ills of the South opened with a challenge to capitalism typical of the Populist rhetoric of the era, although, as noted earlier, Otken had no formal connections to Populism. The crop-lien system occupied a central place in his criticism. This credit system developed in the post-Civil War South as a way for cash poor farmers, both tenants and landowners, to gain farming materials on credit. Farmers secured supplies from merchants and cash from lenders with the future crop as collateral. Merchants frequently sold goods with the requirement that only cotton be grown. In years when the price of cotton was less than the expected price at the time of the sale, farmers were unable to close out their accounts and carried a debt to the next year. The debt at the end of the growing year increasingly became standard, so that once farmers became immersed in this system, exiting it was impossible, generally leading to a loss of land ownership. Mississippi enacted its lien law in 1867 during Reconstruction. By 1890, the debt ratio had increased to a level that cotton profits would in many cases never erase the lien.[33] Otken observed first-hand the devastation of the lien system in his own county, but he also surveyed the entire South and directed his analysis to the economy of the region.

Otken observed that the lien system by design forced small landowners to become increasingly dependent on credit, robbing them of their autonomy. The “foreseen fact” of crop-lien foreclosures allowed people with no money at the beginning of the Civil War to amass great wealth and to become the “money lenders of the country” and “hard, relentless creditors.” The great majority of working farmers, however, did not benefit from this credit system. Instead, the South had embraced “a vast credit system whose evils and exorbitant exactions have brought poverty and bankruptcy to thousands of families.” Without systemic changes to agriculture’s economic system, Southerners faced a “future . . . dark with storm clouds.”[34]

Otken saw the southern crop lien system as a problem within larger context that occupied the entire nation—capitalism. Otken charged that free markets and profits and accumulation of wealth were not morally neutral entities. In fact, the lien system contributed to the accumulation of wealth in a small class of people, an accumulation that he saw as fundamentally immoral. The economic system of the entire nation lacked government regulation and elevated the principle of maximized profits above all other interests. This condition “is enslaving the people and concentrating productive wealth in the hands of the few.”[35]

Otken challenged the economic system of capitalism, stating, “Capital calls no halt in the race for gain. The general prosperity of the people—their welfare is not the question. Progress is measured by the aggregate capital of the few. There are said to be fifty millionaires in the South. What about the 18,000,000?…It takes 360,000 people to make one millionaire.” Otken also noted an 1889 editorial in the New Orleans Times Picayune that criticized the concentrated wealth that was a direct result of capitalist economy of the lien system—“the more rich men, the more paupers.”[36]

This economic arrangement had injustice built into it by allowing some people to become millionaires while many became paupers at the expense of the small, wealthy minority. “There is something wrong with this millionaire system,” he argued in his economic teachings. [37] The concentration of wealth in a few results from the sacrifice of the “common welfare of millions,” whose lives go “on the rack.” Such laissez-faire treatment is “neither humane nor just.” Instead, he pronounced the economic system as “sin.” Quoting the Hebrew Scriptures in response to this type of economic system, he stated that “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people,” one of his few direct biblical allusions in the book. The policy can be called “by the fairest name…yet such a policy is fundamentally wrong.”[38]

The economic policies of the lien system also concentrated land ownership in a few, something Otken stated ran counter to “the American idea” of universal private land ownership that allowed each person to be a “freeholder, independent, [and] unconscious of grinding dependence.” Instead, Otken saw the development of large farms and plantations as a spreading of “the European idea…[which] means landlordism, vast estates, a multitudinous tenantry, beggary, [and] serfdom.” The debt system of liens drove land into foreclosures, which created the conditions for non-residential landlords to amass large tracts of land. While a creditor may wish at first to sell the land in small tracts to area residents or even create conditions that would allow people to reacquire their farms, the personal morality and good will of economic leaders controlling the system were simply not strong enough to protect people. Corporate forces would always overpower personal good will in a capital driven free market economy. A merchant may wish to sell to a local resident for “private and generous reasons,” which Otken stated was “patriotic.” However, “money is scarce among farmers. When the merchant is pressed for money, patriotism will lose its aroma, and the land will go into the market; the highest cash bidder will get it. If this cash bidder is a company of capitalists, it will be held until a ‘corner’ can be produced, or it will be cultivated by tenants.”[39]

Otken labeled the maximizing of profits as the “summum bonum” of capitalism and its chief injustice because of the claim that the profit motive had moral neutrality and was a natural process. Profits, though, were hardly neutral or natural. Supply and demand reflected the concrete decisions people made and affected profit and Otken called for an awareness of this arrangement. The moral question of a profit depending on “how [it was] obtained, or at what sacrifice.”[40] Government regulation alone, as a moral duty, Otken argued, could address profits and the motives behind them and improve the life of struggling farmers. In addition to ending the crop lien system, Otken called for regulation of the amount of cotton grown to increase the price and to create diversification of agriculture.[41]

Otken’s economic and agricultural interests reflect many traditions with Social Gospel connections. Some of these traditions were ending, while others would continue into the 20th century. His challenges to banking and credit, as well as his criticism of the accumulation of wealth, expressed clear Populist themes, as the Populist movement ended. He also operated in a tradition of Christian agrarianism that had origins prior to the Populist Era and that would continue into the twentieth century. His religiously informed agrarianism celebrated landowning farmers as ones with a heritage of self-sufficiency to which they should return, after disconnecting from the corrupt economic system. This approach placed the family farm and small scale living at the center of revived lifestyle that had distinct theological support and that provided specific solutions to complex problems. Like Otken, these agrarians employed religious language and possessed religious identities, using phrases like the Kingdom of God, describing the Earth as “holy,” and calling for “the abundant life” of the farm.[42] Finally, Otken had the profile of a Progressive Era leader before the Progressive Era.[43]

The plight of African Americans occupied the second area of Otken’s interest and he recognized the issue both as a moral and economic matter. Otken’s lengthy advocacy of colonization is one of the most detailed treatments of race by any white Social Gospel writer in nation in the late 1800s and merits consideration in light of recent scholarship on race and the Social Gospel.[44] Chapter Twelve, “The Progress of the Negroes,” provided Otken’s celebration of the role of Anglo-Saxon culture in the development of the United States and his contention that African Americans necessarily failed to adapt to Anglo-Saxon values. African Americans, he argued paternalistically, have always been a subjected people, with their worst oppression or their greatest patronage being the result of whites. “Whether enslaved or made freedmen, the effort was not their act. They have ever been the football of superior races. Degraded by slavery or elevated by philanthropy, the moving force, whether as a curse or a blessing, is from without. No Joshua has appeared among them.”[45] Otken pondered what centuries of interaction between Anglo-Saxons and African Americans had accomplished, claiming that the race had not adapted to Anglo-Saxon influences and entered major positions of prominence and economic advancement. Although African Americans have witnessed “the stirring activities of the Anglo-Saxon people,” they have not “absorbed” its influences.[46]

The same chapter did show an appreciation for significant African American leaders. Colonization, Otken promised, would develop more African Americans leaders on the soil of the African continent. His roll call included a number of bishops and pastors, including African American leader and colonization advocate, Henry M. Turner. He also mentioned exemplary educational leaders, including North Carolina leaders, Joseph Price of Livingston College and C. N. Grandison of Bennett College. Otken completed his list of important African Americans by commending the work of Frederick Douglass, as well as Mississippi political leaders, United States Senator Blanche K. Bruce, and John Lynch, a Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Mississippi Legislature and a U. S. Congressman. For Otken, all three of these men “stand in the front rank” of African American leadership, which he claimed would flourish more if colonization occurred.[47]

Otken did not attribute all of the social conditions of African Americans to an inability to adapt to Anglo Saxon social values. Whites simply refused to extend equal opportunities to African Americans and were incapable of doing so, especially poor whites, he claimed. In making this critique of whites, In fact, poor whites would always be the whites prone to unjustified violence and unable to adopt humanitarian treatment of African Americans. By charging marginalized, economically deprived whites as the chief agents of violence toward African Americans, Otken utilized a common tactic of the white power structure—ascribing blame to a certain social class of whites. The economic power structure, however, needed the inexpensive labor of African Americans and the violence served to control the labor force. The rhetoric of opposition to violence was often empty, because the white class controlling capital benefitted from the different white class’s use of violence that controlled the African American labor force. Otken’s proposal of colonization, though, indicated not only his traditional patrician opposition to poor whites, it reflected a challenge to the economic position of his own class. Colonization would remove African Americans as targets of poor white violence and as underpaid labor, forcing white employers to pay the new white work force more, thus redistributing wealth.[48]

As further evidence for his assessment that whites could not treat African Americans fairly, the southern Otken engaged in a bit of defensive description of African American life outside the old Confederacy. In these regions where African Americans had lived without the issue of slavery, white institutions remained as closed to African Americans as parallel institutions in the South. That not one single state outside the American South had elected an African American governor demonstrated, for Otken, that whites would not integrate the race into the society. White people simply would not open their institutions to African Americans. They should, he implied, but they would not. The two races cannot coexist.[49]

With opportunity in the entire United States, limited and restricted, Otken affirmed as natural and normal that African American resentment would grow and ultimately lead to violence. With “doors closed,” by not only Anglo-Saxon “superiority,” but also by white “natural antagonism,” African Americans had no choice but to “go to the wall” and resist. Only colonization would prevent violence, stop abuse of African Americans by unscrupulous economic leaders, and allow the descendants of slaves to flourish. The “best interests of the children of the white race and the black race require” it and “Wisdom, humanity, and Christian duty demand it.”[50] Otken penned his analysis of race relations in the final years of the dismantling of Reconstruction Era biracialism. By the time he wrote these words, the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 had disenfranchised virtually the entire African American population of the state, as well as large numbers of poor whites. In two years, the Supreme Court would issue its ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, starting the period of legalized segregation in the region. Otken’s form of religiously motivated white supremacy offered an alternative to religiously and socially motivated racial segregation.

Colonization had largely ceased to be advocated by whites before the Civil War. However, some African American leaders continued to advocate colonization because of the failure of post-Civil War Reconstruction to provide adequate economic and legal rights for freed slaves and their descendants. While their motivations and their sense of racial theory differed from Otken, they agreed with Otken that the United States would not provide full equality for African Americans. Otken quoted a speech given by Bishop Abram Grant in 1893 at the Colored Institute, meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, in which Grant stated that African Americans “need to consider the subject of eventually making Africa their future home.” Otken also quoted extensively in his chapter on colonization from the work of Henry McNeal Turner. Turner was a former slave in Georgia who became active in Republican politics in the state, including serving in the state legislature during Reconstruction. In addition to his government service, Turner served as clergy, becoming the first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the south. During the final stages of disenfranchisement and imposition of legalized segregation, Turner embraced racial separatism and advocated immigration and settlement in Africa. Bishop Turner, like Otken, concluded that whites would not treat African Americans fairly. Their sense of Anglo-Saxon superiority, denied by Turner and affirmed by Otken, would prevent peaceful coexistence.[51] Otken referenced Turner, stating that whites would not treat African Americans fairly and that the solution is African American political and cultural independence in new nations on the African continent. Quoting Turner, Otken wrote, “Wherever it [whites] have settled among other races, it has always either subjected the native races or exterminated them…. We do not believe that the Caucasian will accept the African as an equal in every respect[52]

Seeing colonization as in the best interests of African Americans, Otken called it the “one foundation for hope to prevent untold suffering to both races, and final extinction” to African Americans. The Federal Government had a moral obligation to fund colonization and Otken crunched the numbers on the cost, advocating full expenditure. Citing an 1893 editorial calling for colonization, Otken claimed that the African American population of 9,000,000 could be transported to Africa over thirty years. The total cost for establishing a series of African American colonies would be $750,000,000. He proposed financing the creation of new colonies by a national property tax assessment of 1.5 cents. The creation of these colonies would allow African Americans to create social and economic institutions that would thrive on the African continent.[53]

Otken’s book ended with a more realistic call for African American legal and economic rights in the interim before his colonization plan would be enacted. The Civil War brought “civil rights” to four million newly freed people, which Otken called “a tremendous experiment.” He also offered his “cheerful approval” of “the accomplished fact—the freedom of the [N]egro. Negro slavery is dead forever.”[54] With slavery over and African Americans settled in the United States for the foreseeable future until colonization occurred, the white privileged people had a responsibility to create a society that will help African Americans. “[A]s long as the [N]egroes remain among us, show them kindness—genuine kindness—and in full measure. Deal fairly and honestly with them. Help them educationally, religiously, and industrially. Help them with good counsel.”[55]

Otken’s call for education exceeded the approach of Booker T. Washington, who supported industrial education and dismissed the value of liberal arts education in his classic confrontation with W. E. B. DuBois. Otken lamented that the underfunded African American schools focused exclusively on industrial education to the exclusion of higher liberal arts. “Make these schools something better than mere mechanical agents to impart so much knowledge. . . . Make the common schools efficient agents to energize the moral principle. Dead perfunctory hearing of lessons is a waste of time and money.” Liberal arts education had value for African Americans. Even those studying for trades needed the critical thinking that liberal arts provided.[56]

Otken also called for legal protection for African Americans, criticizing the violence that was directed against African Americans. Otken’s worldview accepted the incorrect sexualization of the African American male by accepting the discredited rape charges. However, he firmly rejected lynching and mob violence specifically. Otken rejected the use of rape mythology as a means to divide whites and African Americans[57] Otken had a particular interest in challenging the White Cap movement, a loosely structured form of vigilante violence directed toward African American farmers who rented land that had been taken by merchants and banks for non-payment of debts. Whitecapping literature introduced anti-Semitic elements into southern rhetoric by denouncing Jewish businesses that foreclosed on the property holdings of debtors. Otken challenged the violence of the White Cap movement and warned that without a change in the cotton based economy, this unjustified violence would accelerate.[58] In concluding the book, he stated that “until it [the race issue] is solved, no duty is more solemnly binding upon the Southern people, and joined to every interest, than obedience to constituted legal authority…. A lawless land, where every man can take his grievances, real or imaginary, into his own hands, is an accursed land.”[59] The emerging “mob violence” offered no protection to either whites or African Americans. Calling on whites to embrace legal protection for African Americans, he warned that “To-day it strikes the [N]egro; tomorrow it threatens the white man. It is ruinous to the country. It shames our Christianity.”[60]

African American leaders, such as Ida Wells Barnett, Reverdy Ransom, and Henry Hugh Proctor spoke vigorously for the application of Christian social ethics to the living conditions of African Americans, including civil rights. White Social Gospel leaders, on the other hand, possessed a range of views on race and the conditions of African Americans that spanned from ignoring African Americans to benevolent paternalism to biracial equality. Key thinkers, such as Josiah Strong, promoted Anglo-Saxon superiority, while Walter Rauschenbusch essentially had little to say about race. Taking a different approach, Washington Gladden spoke vigorously in support of the plight of African Americans toward the end of his career, largely motivated by a trip to Atlanta in 1903 and a conversation with Henry Hugh Proctor, pastor of the First Congregational Church of Atlanta.[61] Charles Otken did not ignore the plight of African Americans, on the one hand, nor did he embrace biracial cooperation on the other hand. His approach to alleviating violence against African Americans and addressing economic exploitation in the labor market, as well as his commitment to Anglo-Saxon white supremacy, guided him to propose immediate protections for the African American community and the long range program of colonization, which by the 1890s ceased to be widely advocated by whites.


The Ills of the South received wide recognition in newspapers and denominational presses across the country in the year of its release. Favorable responses appeared in the Detroit Free Press, the Baltimore Sun, and the Chronicle of London, affirming the book’s condemnation of white mob violence and the credit system that oppressed whites and African Americans.[62] Notable opposition came in the New York Times, which challenged Otken’s proposals, although not on humanitarian grounds. The end of bank-based credit, according to the reviewer, would damage the economy, while colonizing African Americans would cost far more than Otken’s estimation. Moreover, African Americans in the South did not suffer the level of disadvantage assessed by Otken, according to the Times. The reviewer contended that conditions for African Americans were actually much better than the picture presented by Otken.[63]

Otken lived for seventeen years after the publication of The Ills of the South. While the book gained an initially strong hearing, it did not attain the status of other Social Gospel publications. Otken himself attempted to write other agriculturally-oriented Social Gospel publications, but he failed to gain a publisher. As he prepared the final edition of The Ills of the South, he sent a manuscript on education to his agent, Patton, who agreed to meet with Walter Hines Page in hopes of publication in Page’s magazine, The Forum. Page reviewed the manuscript and offered Patton a polite, but thorough rejection.[64] After the release of The Ills of the South, Otken wrote an article on the challenges of the economy to families, sending the piece to the Ladies Home Journal, which also declined interest. After that rejection, Otken channeled his final energies into the leading the public schools of Pike County, Mississippi. In those responsibilities, he did articulate some reform emphases, especially in his challenge to corporal punishment and his advocacy of a form of education that involved critical reasoning over the rote memorization of content. He ceased, though, to seek a national audience through publishing.

In 1915, North Carolina reform-oriented civic leader, Clarence Poe, addressed a letter to Otken, unaware that the Mississippi author and educator had died four years earlier. Poe requested that Otken write an article entitled “The Lien System in the South, and What Should be Done About it.” Editor of The Progressive Farmer, Poe hoped to use his magazine as a forum to raise awareness of Otken’s now forgotten book and press southern legislatures to abolish the lien system.[65] Poe received a quick and kind reply from Otken’s daughter, Frances, informing him of her father’s death and offering several articles that he might use. She then offered this assessment of her father’s book. It was, she stated, “a financial failure” ignored by many because people did not understand it and because it was “twenty years in advance of its time.” Otken’s daughter hoped that Poe “might be instrumental in reviving an interest in this publication,” which would allow her father to “preach his Gospel to the people of the South.”[66]

Otken’s daughter offered what may be the clearest assessment of why his book did not gain lasting support and why Otken did not generate the start of a movement. He was both “ahead of his time” and disconnected from his time. Using Populist language and ideas, he had his strongest political affiliations with the Bourbon wing of the Democratic Party. Although employing white supremacy in his criticisms of African American culture and identity, he refused to placate the racism of working and farmer class whites in order to buttress the economic order. Finally, Otken’s understanding of race relations, and his advocacy for the full legal rights of African Americans and a call for paternalistic benevolence, ran counter to the race baiting and advocacy of violence that came with Progressive Era Governor James K. Vardaman and, later, Theodore Bilbo.[67] Otken, indeed, was ahead of his time.

Although he did not contribute another study to the growing body of Social Gospel literature, Otken’s one publication does place him squarely in the Social Gospel movement as it expressed itself in the American South. His approach to social injustice did not merely to encourage individuals to engage in personal acts of charity and kindness. Otken offered a challenge to the laws and other social structures of the American South to address the effects of the Civil War, the end of Reconstruction, and the challenges of an agriculturally based economy. His economic thought addressed the southern concerns of agriculture, especially the cotton-based economy and the lien system of credit and race relations. His approach blended the Anglo-Saxon superiority assumed by many people in the larger Social Gospel tradition with the emerging de jure segregation of the South. In making his pronouncements in the name of “his blessed redeemer,” Charles Otken provided a southern version of the Social Gospel that had its moment of national attention.

Author's Note: I offer my thanks to several people for their help with this article. Charles Lippy, Bill Pitts, Wayne Flynt, Glenn Jonas, Emily Clark, Doug Thompson, Jerry Faught, and Carol Holcomb, as well as the anonymous reviewers of the Journal of Southern Religion, offered critical feedback. Heather Moore of the Mississippi Baptist Historical Commission, as well as the staff of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, gave valuable assistance in accessing collections. Finally, I extend my gratitude to Jane and Bill Smith for providing housing and hospitality during two separate trips for working through Otken archival material.

[1] Robert Moats Miller, in Encyclopedia of Religion in the South, 2nd ed., eds. Samuel S. Hill, Charles H. Lippy, and Charles Reagan Wilson (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2005), 699-–700.

[2] John Lee Eighmy, “Religious Liberalism in the South During the Progressive Era,” Church History 38 (Summer 1968): 359–372.

[3] Natalie J. Ring, The Problem South: Region, Empire, and the New Liberal State, 1880–1930, Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South (Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 2012), 32, 110; David M. Oshinsky, Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (New York: Free Press Paperbacks, 1996), 93, 94; C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877–1913, rev. ed, History of the South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971), 249, 264; George M. Frederickson, The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817–1914, Wesleyan ed. (Hanover, New Hampshire: Wesleyan University Press, 1987), 267; K. Stephen Prince, Stories of the South: Race and the Reconstruction of Southern Identity, 1865–1915 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), 212; Edward L. Ayers, Vengeance and Justice: Crime and Punishment in the Nineteenth-Century American South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 241, 251; Scott E. Giltner, Hunting and Fishing in the New South: Black Labor and White Leisure after the Civil War, The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 158; John David Smith, An Old Creed for the New South: Proslavery Ideology and Historiography, 1865–1918, rev. ed. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2008), 31; Robert Whaples and Dianne C. Betts, eds., Historical Perspectives on the American Economy: Selected Readings (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 260, 277, 281; Robert Higgs, Competition and Coercion: Blacks in the American Economy 1865–1914, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Roger L. Ransom and Richard Sutch, One Kind of Freedom: The Economic Consequences of Emancipation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 144, 149, 164, 394; Thomas Adams Upchurch, Legislating Racism: The Billion Dollar Congress and the Birth of Jim Crow (Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press, 2004), 232n74; Michael Wayne, The Reshaping of Plantation Society: The Natchez District, 1860–80, Blacks in the New World, Illini Books ed. (Springfield, Illinois: The University of Illinois Press, 1990), 170, 172.

[4] Susan Curtis, A Consuming Faith; The Social Gospel and Modern American Culture (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2001); Elna Green, “The Master-Word: Lily Hardy Hammond and the Social Gospel in the South,” Journal of Southern Religion 15 (2013): http:/; Susan Hill Lindley, “Deciding Who Counts: Toward a Revised Definition of the Social Gospel,” in The Social Gospel Today, ed. Christopher H. Evans (Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, Kentucky, 2001), 24. In addition, Paul Harvey, while preferring the term, “Social Christianity,” to describe religiously inspired social protest movements in the American South, also notes that southern religious leaders combined “evangelical pietism and agrarian protest” to create a “rural social gospelism.” Paul Harvey, Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identities Among Southern Baptists 1865–1925. The Fred W. Morrison Series in Southern Studies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 91. Elna Green provides a clear, concise understanding of the concerns of the southern Social Gospel as a response to the Civil War, Reconstruction, emancipation, and the development of sharecropping. See Green, “The Master-Word.” Green’s work also provides a helpful historiography of Social Gospel scholarship. For other historiographies, see Ralph E. Luker, “Interpreting the Social Gospel: Reflections on Two Generations of Historiography,” in Perspectives on the Social Gospel; Papers From the Inaugural Social Gospel Conference at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, ed. Christopher H. Evans, Texts and Studies in the Social Gospel, vol. 3 (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999), 1–13 and Stephen R. Presscott, “The Social Gospel and the American South: An Historiographical Appraisal,” in Perspectives on the Social Gospel; Papers From the Inaugural Social Gospel Conference at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, ed. Christopher H. Evans, Texts and Studies in the Social Gospel, vol. 3 (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999), 33–50. Keith Harper provides an extensive discussion of lack of consensus about the term, “Social Gospel,” with a historiographical survey that ultimately makes the argument that the American South possessed forms of the Social Gospel. See The Quality of Mercy: Southern Baptists and Social Christianity 1890–1920 (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1996), 1–14. Wayne Flynt’s scholarship has provided extensive analysis of the presence of a southern Social Gospel tradition. For a current overview, see Flynt, Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century, Religion and American Culture (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2016), particularly “Dissent in Zion: Alabama Baptist and Social Issues, 1900-1914,” 37–52 and “Alabama Methodists and the Social Gospel, 1900–1930,” 53–68.

[5] Frances Otken to George Raffalovish, February 20, 1951, Box 1, Frances Powell Otken Papers (Mississippi Department of Archives and History; hereinafter cited as MDAH).

[6] L. S. Foster, “Mississippi Baptist Preachers,” 1895, Box 1, Otken Papers (MDAH).

[7] Ordination Letter, 1864, Box 1, Otken Papers, box 1, (MDAH).

[8] Ibid. The use of the term, “presbytery,” is unusual for Baptists, especially in the South during this period with their radical congregationalism and localism. This presbytery was likely a council of area ministers who interviewed Otken and then recommended him to the local congregation, which actually ordained him.

[9] Minutes of Summit Baptist Church, June 3, 1877. (Mississippi Baptist Historical Commission, Leland Speed Library, Mississippi College; hereinafter cited as MBHC).

[10] August 23, 1877, The Baptist Record, microfilm 2:7; History of the Mississippi Baptist Association,; See also Otken Data Form, undated, Otken File (MBHC); Minutes of Summit Baptist Church, 1867–1894 (MBHC).

[11] Charles Otken, sermon, undated, Box 5, Otken Papers (MDAH).

[12] Charles Otken, “Richard Curtis, the First Baptist Preacher in Mississippi,” undated, Box 6, Otken Papers (MDAH).

[13] See Randy J. Sparks, Religion in Mississippi, Heritage of Mississippi Series, vol. 2 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001); Sparks, On Jordan’s Stormy Banks; Evangelicalism in Mississippi, 1773–1876 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994).

[14] Otken Data Form, undated, Otken File (MBHC); Mississippi College Board of Trustee Minutes, 1882-1894 (MBHC).

[15] Ibid.

[16] See David G. Sansing, The University of Mississippi; A Sesquicentennial History (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999); David G. Sansing, Making Haste Slowly: The Troubled History of Higher Education in Mississippi (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008); David G. Sansing, “John Marshall Stone: Thirty-first and Thirty-third Governor of Mississippi: 1876–1882; 1890–1896,” Mississippi History Now,, accessed January 26, 2015.

[17] For discussions of the political context of agrarianism in Mississippi during this period, see James S. Ferguson, “The Grange and Farmer Education in Mississippi,” The Journal of Southern History 8, no. 4 (November 1942): 497–512; Willie D. Halsell, “The Bourbon Period in Mississippi Politics, 1875-1890,” The Journal of Southern History 11: 4 (November 1945): 519–537; Thomas Adams Upchurch, “Why Populism Failed in Mississippi,” The Journal of Mississippi History 65: 3 (Fall 2003): 249–276; Stephen Cresswell, Multiparty Politics in Mississippi, 1877–1902 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007); Cresswell, Rednecks, Redeemers, and Race: Mississippi after Reconstruction, 1877–1917, Heritage of Mississippi (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011). For discussions of populism and other forms of agrarianism, including the religious dimension, see Joe Creech, Righteous Indignation: Religion and the Populist Revolution (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006).

[18] Charles H. Otken, The Baptist Record, Sepetmber 22, 1881; Microfilm column 1:3.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Charles H. Otken, “Christian Education (No. 1),” December 13, 1883, The Baptist Record. Microfilm column 1:3.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Charles H. Otken, “Christian Education (No. 3),” March 13, 1884, The Baptist Record. Microfilm column 1:7.

[24] Charles H. Otken, “Christian Education (No. 4),” March 27, 1884, The Baptist Record. Microfilm column 1:6.

[25] Ibid. Otken’s papers and letters do not indicate how he transitioned from writing articles on higher education to developing a detailed book on economic issues and race relations. While he wrote extensively in the 1880s on a defined topic, higher education, by the 1890s he had advanced to more complex thinking.

[26] The Baker and Taylor Company to C. H. Otken, August 21, 1893, Box 1, in Otken Papers (MDAH).

[27] Charles L. Patton to Charles H. Otken, September 21, 1893, Box 1, in Otken Papers (MDAH).

[28] Charles L. Patton to Charles H. Otken, October 10, 1893, Box 1, in Otken Papers (MDAH).

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Charles L. Patton to Charles H. Otken, December 12, 1893, Box 1, in Otken Papers (MDAH).

[33] Harold D. Woodman, New South—New Law: The Legal Foundations of Credit and Labor Relations in the Postbellum Agricultural South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995). Charles C. Bolton, Poor Whites of the Antebellum South: Tenants and Laborers in Central North Carolina and Northeast Mississippi (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994); Ted Ownby. American Dreams in Mississippi: Consumers, Poverty, and Culture, 1830–1998 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999). Jarod Roll, Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010); Wayne Flynt, Dixie’s Forgotten People: The South’s Poor Whites, 2nd ed. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004).

[34] Otken, The Ills of the South, 9–11.

[35] Ibid., 12.

[36] Ibid., 54, 56.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid., 69.

[39] Ibid., 144, 152.

[40] Ibid., 16.

[41] For discussions of the Social Gospel and economic theory, see Gary Dorrien, “Social Salvation: The Social Gospel as Theology and Economics,” in The Social Gospel Today, ed. Christopher H. Evans (Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, Kentucky, 2001), 101–113; Jacob H. Dorn, “The Social Gospel and Socialism: A Comparison of the Thought of Francis Greenwood Peabody, Washington Gladden, and Walter Rauschenbusch,” Church History 62 (Spring 1993): 82–100; Dan McKanan, “The Implicit Religion of Radicalism: Socialist Party Theology, 1900–1934,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 78 (September 2010): 750-789; Heath Carter, Union Made: Working People and the Rise of Social Christianity in Chicago (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). For populist and agrarian critiques of capitalism, see Walter Nugent, Tolerant Populists: Kansas Populism and Nativism, Second Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013); Jim Bissett, Agrarian Socialism in America: Marx, Jefferson, and Jesus in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1904–1920 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002).

[42] Kevin M. Lowe, Baptized with the Soil: Christian Agrarians and the Crusade for Rural America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016). See especially 12–17 on “theologies of Christian agrarianism.” See also Mark R. Stoll, Inherit the Holy Mountain; Religion and the Rise of Environmentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

[43] For a discussion of the Social Gospel and its connections to Populism, as distinct from the Progressive Movement, see Richard C. Goode, “The Godly Insurrection in Limestone County: Social Gospel, Populism, and Southern Culture in Late Nineteenth Century,” Religion in American Culture 3 (Summer 1993): 155–169; see also McMath, Populist Vanguard, 136–137.

[44] Thomas F. Gossett, Race, the History of an Idea, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), see especially the chapter, “Race and the Social Gospel,” 176–197; George M. Fredrickson, Racism, A Short History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002); James B. Bennett, “Race and Racism,” in Encyclopedia of Religion in America, vol. 4, ed. Charles H. Lippy and Peter W. Williams (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2010), 1825–1833; James B. Bennett, Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005); Ivan Hannaford, Race: The History of an Idea in the West (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996); Edward J. Blum Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865–1898, Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2005); David L. Chappell, A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Henry Goldschmidt and Elizabeth McAlister, eds., Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Mark A. Noll, God and Race in American Politics: A Short History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008). Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 1994); Craig R. Prentiss, Religion and the Creation of Race and Ethnicity: An Introduction (New York: New York University Press, 2003); Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

[45] Otken, The Ills of the South, 201.

[46] Ibid., 202.

[47] Ibid., 206–207.

[48] For a fuller understanding of the interplay of race and class in violence toward African Americans, see David Fort Godshalk, Veiled Visions: The 1906 Atlanta Race Riot and the Reshaping of American Race Relations (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2005); Michael Honey, “Racial Violence and the Delusions of White Supremacy,” in Democracy Betrayed; The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and Its Legacy, ed. David S. Cecelski and Timothy B. Tyson (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 163–184.

[49] Ibid., 248–249.

[50] Ibid., 253.

[51] Stephen Ward Angell, Henry McNeal Turner and African-American Religion in the South (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992).

[52] Ibid., 253–255.

[53] Ibid., 255.

[54] Ibid., 2, 6.

[55] Ibid., 260.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Crystal N. Feimster, Southern Horrors; Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009).

[58] William F. Holmes, “Whitecapping: Agrarian Violence in Mississippi, 1902–1906,” The Journal of Southern History 35 (May 1969): 165–185.

[59] Ibid., 261.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Ralph E. Luker, The Social Gospel in Black and White; American Racial Reform, 1885–1912 Studies in Religion (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 211–213. See also Ronald C. White, Jr., Liberty and Justice for All; Racial Reform and the Social Gospel, 1877–1925 The Rauschenbusch Lectures, New Series II (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1990); Susan Curtis, “The Social Gospel and Race in American Culture,” in Perspectives on the Social Gospel; Papers From the Inaugural Social Gospel Conference at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, ed. Christopher H. Evans, Texts and Studies in the Social Gospel, vol. 3 (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999), 15–31.

[62] Press Releases from G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1894, Box 1, (MDAH).

[63] Review of Ills of the South, New York Times, 30 July, 1894.

[64] Walter Hines Page to Charles L. Patton, January 6, 1894, Box 1, in Otken Papers (MDAH).

[65] Clarence Poe to C. H. Otken, January 2, 1915, Box 1, Otken Papers (MDAH).

[66] Frances Otken to Clarence Poe, January 7, 1915, Box 1, Otken Papers, Jan 7, 1915 (MDAH).

[67] Otken’s approach to colonization reflected a benevolent interest in the well-being of African Americans from the perspective of white supremacy and included challenges to the white community. For a different approach to colonization, used as one of several rhetorical devices to engage in race-baiting, see Michael W. Fitzgerald, “‘We Have Found a Moses’: Theodore Bilbo, Black Nationalism, and the Greater Liberia Bill of 1939,” The Journal of Southern History 63, no. 2 (May 1997): 293–320.