"All Is for the Wind:" Notes on Funeral and Baptism Ceremonies on a Georgia Sea Island, c. 1868–1887
John Saillant is Professor of English and History at Western Michigan University.
Cite this Article
John Saillant, "'All Is for the Wind:" Notes on Funeral and Baptism Ceremonies on a Georgia Sea Island, c. 1868–1887," Journal of Southern Religion (19) (2017): jsreligion.org/vol19/saillant.
In 1843, black Baptists from Savannah, Georgia formed the First African Baptist church of Saint Catherines Island. Most or all of these congregants were slaves in Savannah who were being relocated from the coastal riverine city to a remote island to work in agriculture or possibly in an occupation like constructing small watercraft. In the early 1840s, there were three black Baptist churches in Savannah that the congregants probably were already attending, which would have afforded them a religious identity and an awareness of Protestant theology. Their new home was a Sea Island about ten miles long and one to three miles wide, located about fifty miles south of Savannah. The new congregation sporadically maintained a ledger. In it the congregation recorded a founding covenant in 1843, a list of dismission to other churches in 1844, a number of financial and governance records from the late 1870s to the 1890s, and a few final notes ending in 1908. Church members opened their book as slaves but closed it as freedpeople. The ledger was acquired by the Georgia Historical Society, where it resides today. Before it was donated, one or more individuals inserted some unbound material, all relevant to the church, into the ledger. These all appear to be documents preserved by the church on Saint Catherines Island. The earliest of these is the list of dismissions dated 1844. Unfortunately, they were interleafed without regard for chronological order, so no date can be determined unless the document states one. One of these is an undated loose sheet that contains abridged sermon or ceremonial notes.
The sheet is significant because sermon notes from nineteenth-century black Baptists are extremely rare, even rarer for a small institution located in a remote area such as the First African Baptist church of Saint Catherines Island. Most of the sermon notes, manuscripts, and publications produced by African American ministers from the Revolutionary era to the Civil War era originated in Anglican, Congregational, or Methodist churches—all with stronger ties to print culture than Baptists enjoyed. These short and cryptic notes are virtually unparalleled for the coastal South. The historical moment, possibly between 1868 and 1887, is also significant. A new black population was added in 1865 to those who had migrated in the early 1840's. Saint Catherines Island became a short-lived haven for slaves freed by Union forces led by General William Tecumseh Sherman. The island including its church, quickly fell under press from white men who were reoccupying or buying land on the island after the brief period of apparent black independence. In 1868 a number of islanders migrated inland, then, in 1870, established Nicholsonboro Baptist Church, about seven miles southwest of the commercial district along the Savannah River. It seems likely that the notes examined here were written by a preacher or a member of the Baptist congregation that remained on the island.
A transcription and interpretation of the notes is offered below, after some commentary on the document and speculation about its provenance. The sheet is a small piece of lined paper, about 4.75 inches wide, 7.75 inches long. Its relatively good condition suggests that it was not among the earliest documents inserted into the ledger, but this is not certain. On one side, it contains two short handwritten sets of notes that appear at first to be sermon notes. Normally, sermon notes comprised of abbreviations that a preacher used as an aid in sermonizing. Such notes were common in evangelical churches in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Typically, preachers used small sheets of paper like the one discussed here because they could be carried unobtrusively to the pulpit, possibly hidden in a sleeve or under a shirt. They functioned as a relatively unobtrusive mnemonic tool in churches in which spontaneous prayer and proclamation were prized. However, the notes could have been transcribed by a church member who attended the services. One set of notes outlined a funeral sermon, while the other recorded a baptism ceremony for a girl or a woman. An auditor, not the preacher himself, seems to have been the author insofar as the second set of notes described what the pastor said and did, although the minister could have used the sheet as a prompt. Indeed, there could have been two speakers. A different speaker at a morning and an afternoon service would have been entirely within Baptist worship traditions.
The provenance of the document could be as follows. A church member transcribed the notes, probably from memory after the services. Similarity in handwriting and in the writing instrument implies that they were composed in one sitting. There could have been a funeral early and a baptism late in the day, or the two events could have occurred on different days. The transcriber may have been a family member of either the deceased or the convert. That someone made a transcription from the prayers, sermons, and hymns suggests an interest such as a family member might have had. In an obvious sense, the notes balanced each other. First one member left the congregation through death, then a new one joined the fellowship through baptism, so it makes sense that they were composed on one page. But it is not impossible that the transcriber was also responding to events on the island that followed the collapse of the early ideals of Reconstruction. While a family member’s interest is an easy explanation, there is no discounting the possibility that the auditor was interested in social, economic, or theological elements, all of which might be seen refracted in the notes. In other words, the notes suggest a sermon that at least obliquely objected to the reassertion of white dominance on the island and possibly to post-slavery racism in general.
A conjecture about the minister may also be made. He could have been George Waring (1817–1887). A man of the same name owned the initial covenant in 1843 but did not sign his own name. Aged twenty-six years in 1843, he probably would have been capable of back-breaking labor in rice, cotton, or indigo, so his owner would have had reason to transfer him from Savannah to Saint Catherines Island. Or he could have been skilled in an artisanal trade like watercraft construction. He was almost certainly a fisherman and oysterman, either for family or for market. Thirty-four years later, in 1877, Waring became minister to the Saint Catherines Island First African Baptist congregation. He was almost certainly exhorting or preaching before he was formally installed as minister. The ledger mentions him several times. For instance, “The Installment Of Bro Geo Waring as Pastor Of This Church Was Performed by the Rev Alexander Harris of Savh, Ga On the 6 of Dec Nov A.D. 1877.” His tombstone reads, “He liveth up to the faith to his death.” If Waring was the minister presiding at the services, then a date between 1868 and 1887 seems likely—between the years some freedpeople migrated inland and the year in which Waring died.
Those conjectures stated, a transcription follows. The rough scription, faded pencil marks, and extreme abridgement all present challenges. The two sets of notes are separated by one blank line on the document. The blank line was the pivot between death and birth—one member buried in the earth yet ascending into Heaven while a convert was submerged in water to emerge as a new church member. My interest here as a transcriber and exegete is not in the artistry of these notes, yet it is impossible to ignore their aesthetic symmetry. Baptists understood baptism by immersion and emersion as a reenactment of Jesus’s death and rebirth. On Saint Catherines Island, one congregant had been consigned to the grave yet risen to Heaven, while another has been immersed in the symbolic grave of water then risen as a new church member.
14 Chapter of Job
1122 and must this body
Die J 3 Chapter of the
wary beat at rest
John the 11 Chapter Cristen
the 5 Chapter
Sing him 1092 Walking To Me [or Waking Do Me]
Reclam the Covent
834 her Parten Read sent
on then Pray was asked by
the Paster for the Christans
all is for the Wind
An interpretation is offered below. It inevitably extrapolates a sense of the minister’s proclamations from these short and cryptic notes. It also seeks to invoke the minister’s performance and the congregation’s response as we can understand them based on other primary sources and on scholarship in African American evangelical Christianity.
14 Chapter of Job 1122: Job 14:1122 was a powerful text with which to commence a funeral sermon. It invoked the omnipotent God in charge of all events, familiar to the congregants from their Calvinistic theological heritage. Mirroring English Baptist history, the first black Baptists, North, South, and Caribbean, were predestinarian (“particular”). The theological face of their faith is probably best described as a folk Calvinism. It is difficult to determine how long this survived in small, independent black congregations that left only slim records. The best evidence we have is the power of the congregation’s inheritance and textual fragments, like references to the Bible, that suggest a kinship to Calvinism. Job 14:11–22 emphasized the insignificance of humanity before God, and the verses fit a death following upon a painful illness—something easily imaginable for those laboring on a small, poor Sea Island.
And must this body Die: “And must this body die,” immediately following Job, opened a hymn well known to black Protestants, “Triumph over Death in the Hope of Resurrection,” composed by Isaac Watts in 1746. Probably after an exposition of Job 14:11–22 the minister called the congregation to song:
1. And must this body die?
This mortal frame decay?
And must these active limbs of mine
Lie mould’ring in the clay?
2. Corruption, earth, and worms
Shall but refine this flesh,
Till my triumphant spirit comes
To put it on afresh.
3. God my Redeemer lives,
And often from the skies
Looks down, and watches all my dust,
Till He shall bid it rise.
4. Arrayed in glorious grace
Shall these vile bodies shine,
And every shape, and every face,
Look heav'nly and divine.
Indeed, the themes of this hymn evidently came up quickly in the sermon: death, resurrection through the spirit, and the presence of God, first distant, then intimate. The hymns of Watts and Charles Wesley were perennial favorites among black Protestants, sometimes with flourishes like the “wandering refrain” added. Two black ministers had compiled hymbooks—Methodists Richard Allen and John Jea—but those were published in far fewer numbers than the Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, and Methodist hymnals that were authored or compiled by white Protestants. It is impossible to know how likely a black Baptist congregation was to own either Allen’s or Jea’s collection. The presence of “And Must This Body Die?” in Jea’s collection and in later editions of Allen”s collection was a measure of its popularity among black worshipers.
The line breaks in the notes suggest a familiarity with hymnbooks. Most fundamentally, the notes were structured like the verses of a hymn on a printed page. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of congregational hymn-singing in nineteenth-century African American culture. Hymns are now often conflated with spirituals and freedom songs, but hymnody had its own tradition, theology, and practices. Eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century hymns relied on popular melodies and addressed the lives of contemporary Christians, including, when sung by black believers, slaves. Hymn singing was a supreme means of evangelizing, for potential converts could be attracted by the religious meaning of the lyrics, the invitation to join congregational song, and the opportunity to display performative excellence. It is all but certain that hymns internalized in childhood provided a mental and oral foundation that supported later performances in poetry and sermonizing. A youth full of hymns allowed black preachers to rise to the challenge of spontaneous proclamation, especially in Baptist churches, in which prayers and sermons were, ideally, extemporaneous. A few words on performativity are in order. Not only was the opportunity to perform an inducement to join a church but also an understanding of Africans and African-descended people as “naturally musical” was deeply embedded in the Atlantic (African, European, and American) world for half a millennium by the nineteenth century. As the notes examined here suggest, black musical performances of the nineteenth century were the culmination of centuries of thought among Africans, Europeans, and Americans about African musicality.
J 3 Chapter of the wary beat rest: A reference to Job 3:17 followed. “There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.” It suited a funeral sermon, yet it also might have reflected the pressure black islanders were feeling from the “wicked” after the end of Reconstruction. For people losing their land, there was probably a solemn irony in interring their dead—“there the weary be at rest”—in that very earth. Additionally, it would also have been typical of earlier black preaching, as far as we understand it today, to use 3:17 to evoke the next two verses, which refer to the liberation of servants from their master. “There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master” (3:18–19). Around 1800 it became an established technique among black ministers to choose a relatively innocuous biblical text for a sermon, then to move quickly into more challenging verses that appeared in the chapter close to the verse that they were ostensibly explicating. If the preacher made 3:17 an open door for 18 and 19, then he was following a time-honored technique that involved using one verse as a cover for another. It is not hard today—and probably was not hard around 1870—to hear echoed in those latter verses memories of enslavement as well as present realities of white gains built on black losses.
John the 11 Chapter Cristen: Then the preacher passed from the Old to the New Testament with a reference to the Lazarus story in John 11, one of Jesus’s most cherished acts among African Americans. Befitting Baptists, John was the author most invoked the notes. A classic rhetorical move for preachers in the evangelical Calvinist tradition was to commence with an Old Testament text, then broach a New Testament text that answered it as type to antitype. Of course, revealing the New Testament type that corresponded to an Old Testament type allowed for performative excellence: the Old Testament staged a problem and the preacher announced the New Testament solution. Lazarus was the antitype to the dead man of Job 14, while Lazarus’s story brought Jesus squarely to earth, not watching from the skies as he had in “And Must This Body Die?” This telling brought the Holy Spirit into the congregation. The word “Christen,” Christian, refers to John 11:27, in which Martha attests that she is a Christian. Martha told Jesus that if he had been present, her brother Lazarus would not have died. Jesus assured her Lazarus will live again. Not yet aware that Jesus will restore Lazarus to life upon earth, Martha says that she knows he will rise in the final Resurrection. Jesus asked Martha if she believes that he is the path to eternal life. She affirmed, “I believe that thou art the Christ.” At heart, the preacher was asking those gathered at the funeral to believe, as Martha had, even before they had seen their companion rise again. Typology is well known to scholars as a hermeneutic, yet in this sermon there was almost certainly a performative excellence that revealed the antitype and brought it into the midst of the worshipers. The typological relationship was the sacred version of the aesthetic symmetry that balanced two parts of the text.
The 5 Chapter: Next, John 5, which mentions “Bethesda,” almost certainly recollected the originating acts from which black Protestantism sprang in Georgia: George Whitefield’s revivals and the Bethesda orphanage. Bethesda and Savannah were in the same county, and some of the children remanded to the orphanage lodged temporarily in Savannah. Bethesda appears in John 5:2, which also fits the theme of Jesus saving the sick as well as that of the faithful against the legalists. The infirm are cured in Bethesda, yet Jesus’s enemies object because he is breaking the law by curing the sick on the Sabbath. Once again, it is not hard to understand this invocation on John 5 as a commentary on white men regaining control of the island through the law.
Sing him 1092 Walking to Me: Another hymn (“him”) closed the service. The number 1092 and the quotation, probably “Walking To Me,” are cryptic, to say the least. The close of the sermon is very difficult to interpret. A Wesley hymn, 109, might have on this occasion been sung to the second verse or even sung twice—thus the number 2, perhaps. And it would have fit the themes of illness and dependence upon Jesus:
7s & 6s. Revelation iii. 17.
1 Wretched, helpless, and distrest,
Ah! whither shall I fly?
Ever gasping after rest,
I cannot find it nigh:
Naked, sick, and poor, and blind,
Fast bound in sin and misery,
Friend of sinners, let me find
My help, my all, in thee!
2 I am all unclean, unclean,
Thy purity I want;
My whole heart is sick of sin,
And my whole head is faint;
Full of putrefying sores,
Of bruises, and of wounds, my soul
Looks to Jesus, help implores,
And gasps to be made whole.
The preacher could have ended the sermon with a hymn. Or, if indeed “Wretched, Helpless, and Distrest,” he could have expounded upon Revelation 3, from which the hymn derived. It takes only a little imagination to perceive what might have been the 1880 versions of the three churches—Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea—that appear in that chapter of the Apocalypse.
The church in Sardis, in mortal danger of God’s judgment because of its spiritual deadness, could well have signified local white Christians. The church in Philadelphia, which has kept God'’s word, could well have represented black Philadelphians, famous for their independence and their religious institutions. And the church in Laodicea, chosen by God but lukewarm (as would any congregation seem in general to a spirited preacher) could have been the First African Baptist church of Saint Catherines Island. That would fit the brief phrase “Walking To Me” (or even “Waking Do Me”). For at the end of Revelation 3, Jesus walks up to the homes of believers, knocking on their door, possibly waking them up from a slumber, spiritual or otherwise. In verse 20 Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Blindness, mentioned in the first stanza, had, of course, a spiritual connotation, yet some of the congregation could have been physically blind—an all-too-common disability in poor communities.
This interpretation of the last line is purely speculative, but it does fit the circumstances and it does reflect the black Baptist loyalty to John. Moreover, it reflects Calvinist-inspired revivalistic preaching, which was most effective in igniting religious affections when it emphasized the sins of many and the salvation of a few and God’s predetermined election of the saints. It was not the free human choice of salvation that stirred up emotions in churches in the wake of evangelical Calvinism. Rather, it was God’s election, for his own reasons alone, that caused religious feelings to overflow when preachers spoke of it. Finally, this interpretation fits the typological structure of the sermon: death in Job; Jesus's presence and faith in the everlasting life He offers in John; then Jesus walking to the door of believers (or waking them) and their joyous welcome of him into their homes.
More abridged than the first, the second set of notes is even more challenging.
Reclam the Covent: The first line, apparently “Reclaim the covenant,” matched the congregation’s sense that it was a covenanted body, and it followed Baptist thought that only believer’s baptism enrolled one in the covenant. It might also have meant that the church members read their covenant out loud on ceremonial occasions. Congregations sometimes revisited covenants by reading them aloud. The broadest way to understand this is that the covenant was renewed at each baptism, and it might have been recited or reread at each baptismal ceremony. Each baptism was a reenactment of an act first performed during Jesus’s lifetime as well as a reaffirmation of the covenant.
834: “834,” which follows, could only have been Acts 8:34, which begins the story of Philip’s baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch—one of the pillars of Baptist theology. That such shorthand could be used for this episode means that it was deeply embedded in the consciousness of the church members. The baptism of the eunuch indicated the evangelical reach of Christianity, while his and Philip's movement “down” into the water affirmed the Baptist practice of immersion and emersion. Both participation in the covenant and methods of baptism were passionately contested among eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century Anglo-American Protestants. We should remember that Philip’s baptism of the eunuch did triple duty for black Baptists: it exemplified Jesus’s message spreading among African people, it underlined the necessity of piety, and it demonstrated that early Christians baptized by immersion and emersion. It also had typological value insofar as the eunuch was studying Isaiah when Philip encountered him, yet, as the evangelist saw it, there was no hope of understanding the Israelite prophet without the light of Christianity. The notion of sub-Saharan Africans as an Old Testament people, of monotheistic and Israelite stock, who came into the Christian fold through evangelism was a commonplace of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While the antisemitism there is today all too obvious, the notion did meet central needs of black people under slavery. It cast them as proud and noble, once a people of the book and party to the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants who had fallen yet could still be restored to divine favor. That served as a partial antidote to enslavement.
Her Parten Read sent on then Pray was asked by the Paster for the Chistans: The next lines imply that the person baptized was a girl or a woman, who was pardoned for her sins then stepped into the water. (An alternative reading is that her parents, as “Her Parten” if the letters were transposed, were ready, i.e, for the ceremony to occur, perhaps implying a fairly young girl.) Then the preacher seems to have read a text, followed by a prayer. After that, he appears to have asked for the Christians resent to declare themselves with an exclamation of joy over the induction of a new member of the covenanted church.
All is for the Wind: Once again, the last line, apparently “all is for the Wind,” presents a challenge. John 3:8 would have suited black Baptists’s predestinarian sense of conversion: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Of course, John 3 is the story of Nicodemus’s encounter with Jesus—as a jab at the worldly as well as a staple of evangelical Calvinism that particularly stirred the emotions of black believers. If that was the reference, loyalty to John as an author was reaffirmed. John 3 meant much to Calvinistic Baptists: Jesus informs Nicodemus that the elect must be born of water and of the Spirit (3:5); baptism in “much water” is mentioned (3:23); and the intractability of the “wind” to human ways implies that God directs the Holy Spirit only as He wills, not as humankind wishes (3:8). Wind is mentioned a number of times in Scripture, so the allusion to John 3:8 is far from certain. But it does connect to the prominent features of thought and practice concerning baptism in Baptist churches, and it does confirm John as the gold standard for religious thought since it would conclude the service not with Luke or Philip, but with John.
Wind as it appears in John 3:8 is worth mentioning in another way. Black Sea Islanders practiced African-inspired magic or conjure, a vibrant tradition in African American popular culture. This would have been part of a syncretic African–Protestant religion that merged evangelical Calvinism with belief in spirit possession, magical objects, and supernatural powers available to believers. Jason R. Young describes a process of “religious mediation and adaptation.” Among “Baptists in the Sea Islands,” who would undergo “total body immersion” in order to join a church, “converts mediated the faith and its rituals to respond to the immediacy of their lives and the specificity of their own symbolic and cosmological constructions.” A power recalled within popular culture was the ability to fly. One version of that power was the flight of the soul of the departed from the Americas to Africa. That journey made in the first stages of the afterlife had been known in African American culture for at least a century by the time the sermon notes examined here were composed. It was also a journey that could be assimilated into Christian belief, as some black Christians believed that the Garden of Eden had been in Africa and that God would restore a remnant of the victims of the slave trade and slavery to the Garden. The soul’s journey home was at once to Africa and to a place God had reserved for the black elect. Consequently, one possible corollary of 3:8 was that black converts flew on the wind or even, more radically, became the wind itself. “The wind bloweth where it listeth . . .: so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” could have been read to mean that all those born again fly on the wind or even become the wind. That conversion—from unbelievers to believers to inhabitants of the wind—may well have encapsulated the self-understanding of the black Baptists of the Sea Islands near the end of the nineteenth century. Of course, flight provides a beautiful symmetrical response to interment, ending in a typological and aesthetic fashion the ceremony that began as a funeral.
The tradition of slaves who flew from the Sea Islands to West Africa has no clear beginning. It is often seen as springing from an 1803 uprising by a group of Ibo slaves who were being transported from Savannah to Saint Simon’s Island. They broke out of the hold of the boat in which they were imprisoned and frightened their white handlers into jumping overboard. Then the self-emancipated captives committed suicide, according to a local white overseer, by drowning themselves in the swamps. It was not until the 1930’s that lowcountry African Americans were recorded (during interviews with workers of the Savannah Unit of the Federal Writers’s Project) saying that the self-emancipated captives had flown east to West Africa. In the second half of the twentieth century, the story took on a life of its own, in many retellings, ranging from fiction to cinema to juvenile literature. Wallace Quarterman, an interviewee, was probably reporting a story he and many others had heard earlier, yet there was no prior recorded version of the story. Timothy B. Powell surmises that the story was part of oral culture between 1803 and 1930. Yet the notes examined here suggest the possibility of one other tributary for transmission—Saint Catherines Island black Baptists—as well as another way African culture was kept alive through performance. It is a heavy weight for one phrase to bear, but if we understand the words “all is for the Wind” as the conclusion of a baptism ceremony and as a paraphrase of John 3:8, then it is possible that on Saint Catherines Island, around 1870, appeared the first black-authored statement that after enslavement black people fly, and fly home, whether to God or to Africa. The Wind could have been the Holy Spirit as well as the road to Africa, and black people could have envisioned themselves entering the Wind. This vision would have been indivisibly at once African, American, and European. As performances, the funeral and baptism ceremonies, including their music, sprang from centuries of understandings in the Atlantic world about African and African-descended people. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
. Denominational histories of Savannah’s early black Baptists are: James M. Simms, The First Colored Baptist Church in North America. Constituted at Savannah, Georgia, January 20, A.D. 1788 (Philadelphia, 1888), and E. K. Love, History of the First African Baptist Church, from Its Organization. January 20th, 1788, to July 1st, 1888 (Savannah, 1888). An overview of the history of Saint Catherines Island from the sixteenth to the late nineteenth centuries appears in George J. Armelagos and John Toby Woods, Jr., St. Catherines Island (Atlanta: Colonels Island Press, 2012), 13–53. Although Saint Catherines Island is not examined, a number of superb essays on nineteenth-century black Savannah and some of the Sea Islands appear in Leslie M. Harris and Daina Ramey Berry, eds., Slavery and Freedom in Savannah (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2014).
. A transcription of the covenant and the list of dismissions appears in John Saillant, “‘A Church Shall Be Called the First African Baptist Church of Saint Catherines’: The 1843 Founding Covenant of a Sea Island Congregation,” The Georgia Historical Quarterly, forthcoming.
. The prominent African American figures whose manuscripts were published or preserved in a church context were Jupiter Hammon (Congregational), James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (Huntingdonian), Phillis Wheatley (Congregational), John Marrant (Huntingdonian), Olaudah Equiano (Anglican with Huntingdonian ties), Lemuel Haynes (Congregational), George Liele (Particular Baptist), David George (Particular Baptist), Boston King (Wesleyan Methodist), and Lott Cary (Particular Baptist with Congregational ties).
. A few sermons delivered by early black preachers survive, often as fragments, in the form of notes, outlines, or transcriptions or comments made by auditors. For comments on some of these surviving manuscripts, see Miles Mark Fisher, “Lott Cary, The Colonizing Missionary,” The Journal of Negro History 7, no. 4 (October 1922): 380–418; John Saillant, ed., “‘Circular addressed to the Colored Brethren and friends:’ An Unpublished Essay by Lott Cary, Sent from Liberia to Virginia, 1827,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 104, no. 4 (Autumn, 1996): 481–504; Joanna Brooks and John Saillant, Introduction, in “Face Zion Forward:” First Writers of the Black Atlantic, ed. Brooks and Saillant (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002), 23–24; Saillant, Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753–1833 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 40–43, 142–145; Tim Lockley, “David Margrett: A Black Revolutionary in the Revolutionary Atlantic,” Journal of American Studies 46, no. 3 (2012): 729–745; and John Saillant, “‘This Week Black Paul Preach’d:’ Fragment and Method in Early African American Studies,” Early American Studies 14, no. 1 (Winter 2016): 48–81 (on Benjamin, Nathaniel, Shadrach, and Thomas Paul).
. Russell Duncan, Freedom's Shore: Tunis Campbell and the Georgia Freedmen (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1986), 20–26.
. A similar process, for Ossabaw Island, is described in Allison Dorsey, “‘The great cry of our people is land!’: Black Settlement and Community Development on Ossabaw Island, Georgia, 1865–1900,” in Philip Morgan, ed., African American Life in the Georgia Lowcountry: The Atlantic World and the Gullah Geechee (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2010), 228–236.
. Nancy C. Curtis, Black Heritage Sites: The South (New York: The New Press, 1998), 103–104.
. An overview of Baptist worship practices appears in Christopher Ellis, “Baptists in Britain,” Geoffrey Wainwright and Karen B. Westerfield Tucker, eds., The Oxford History of Christian Worship (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 560–573. Discussion of the classic works concerning the evangelical contexts in which spontaneous worship occurred appears in Leonard I. Sweet, The Evangelical Tradition in America (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1997), 10–14. Scholarship on the origins of black Baptists churches has generally followed two lines. One has been the urge to institutionalize in the face of slavery and racism. Leroy Fitts, A History of Black Baptists (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1985) and James Melvin Washington, Frustrated Fellowship: The Black Baptist Quest for Social Power (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1986) are examples. The other has been syncretism of African spiritual beliefs and practices with Christian enthusiasm. Mechal Sobel, Trabelin’ On: The Slave Journey to an Afro-Baptist Faith (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979), and Walter F. Pitts, Old Ship of Zion: The Afro-Baptist Ritual in the African Diaspora (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996) are examples. The continuing influence of these lines of scholarship is suggested by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., In a Shade of Blue: Pragmatism and the Politics of Black America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2007), 102–103: “Emphasis on immediate experience, the resemblances of worship services to African forms of religious expression, the licensing of black preachers, and the initial condemnation of slavery by Baptists and Methodists resulted in the conversion of large numbers of African Americans.”
. Armelagos and Woods, Jr., St. Catherines Island, 50–51.
. A similar observation concerning Gullah Baptists appears in Erskine Clarke, “‘They shun the scrutiny of white men:’ Reports on Religion from the Georgia Lowcountry and West Africa, 1834–1850,” in Morgan, ed., African American Life in the Georgia Lowcountry, 132–133. White-oriented churches in Savannah also contributed to an evangelical Calvinist theological environment. For instance, the Independent Presbyterian Church, founded in 1755 as a church for Scots Calvinists, had as minister a “Hopkinsian” (consistent Calvinist or ultra-Calvinist) who had fled to Savannah after his extreme predestinarianism led several New England congregations to dismiss him. See Willard Preston, A Farewell Sermon, Preached September 10th, 1815, at St. Alban's, Vermont (Burlington, VT: F. G. Fish, 1815), for his dismissal, and Sermons by Willard Preston, D.D., Late Pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church, Savannah, Georgia, with a Biographical Sketch of the Author, by Samuel K. Talmage, D.D. (Philadelphia: H. Cowperthwait, 1957), two volumes, for his life in Savannah. Black Methodists in Charleston, South Carolina, were in a similar situation, in a Calvinist theological environment with a memory of their own origins as Christians deriving from evangelical Calvinist revivalists. See John Saillant, “Before 1822: Anti-Black Attacks on Charleston Methodist Churches from 1786 to Denmark Vesey's Execution,” Common-place 16, no. 2 (Winter 2016): http://Common-place.org, accessed February 17, 2017.
. One of many available editions was The Psalms and Hymns of the Rev. Isaac Watts (London: C. Whittingham, 1806), book 2, 386. Also, always popular were editions of John Wesley and Charles Wesley, A Collection of Psalms and Hymns, 10th ed. (London: R. Hawes, 1779). Particular Baptists often relied upon John Rippon’s collections. An American edition that black Baptist congregations could have owned was The Psalms and Hymns of Dr. Watts, Arranged by Dr. Rippon: with Dr. Rippon's Selection; in One Volume.; with Improved Indexes (Philadelphia: David Clark, 1827).
. For the wandering refrain, usually attributed to Richard Allen, but probably indicative of African-Atlantic choral techniques, see Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997), 79; and John Saillant, “Make a Black Life, and Bid It Sing: Sacred Song in The Life, History, and Unparalleled Sufferings of John Jea,” a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 31, no. 1 (Winter 2016): 147–173 (esp. 161–163).
. Richard Allen’s collection was A Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns, Selected From Various Authors (Philadelphia: John Ormrod, 1801). An enlarged edition appeared in 1818 and in further editions thereafter. “And Must This Body Die?” appeared as a funeral song. See The African Methodist Episcopal Hymn and Tune Book, 5th ed. (Philadelphia: African Methodist Episcopal Book Concern, 1912), 474. John Jea’s was A Collection of Hymns. Compiled and Selected by John Jea, African Preacher of the Gospel (Portsea, Hampshire, England: J. Williams, 1816). “And Must This Body Die?” appeared on page 136.
. In other words, the author of the notes did not use the sides of the sheet of paper to break lines, but rather broke them as the lines and stanzas of a hymn were broken in print. For examples of nineteenth-century manuscripts in a black hand that, alternatively, did rely on the sides of the sheet of paper to break lines, see John Saillant, ed., “The 1828 Deed for Liberian Territory, Unvarnished: A Holding of the Library of Congress,” Vestiges: Traces of Record 2, no. 1 (2016). <http://www.vestiges-journal.info/index.php/Vestiges> (accessed January 17, 2017); and John Saillant, ed., “Letters and Notes on Liberia, 1828–1834, Preserved in the National Archives of Liberia until the Civil War that Began in 1989,” Vestiges: Traces of Record (forthcoming).
. The history of this understanding is summarized in John Saillant, “Make a Black Life, and Bid It Sing,” 150–156.
. Examples appear in Saillant, “‘This Week Black Paul Preach’d,’” 65–67; and John Saillant, “‘Wipe away All Tears from Their Eyes:’ John Marrant’s Theology in the Black Atlantic,1785–1808,” Journal of Millennial Studies 1, no. 2 (Winter, 1999). http://www.mille.org/publications/winter98/saillant. (accessed February 17, 2017).
. The most detailed history of the Bethesda orphanage is Edward J. Cashin, Beloved Bethesda: A History of George Whitefield’s Home for Boys, 1740–2000 (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2001). An analysis of Bethesda in its theological context is Boyd Stanley Schlenther, Queen of the Methodists: The Countess of Huntingdon and the Eighteenth-Century Crisis of Faith and Society (Durham, UK: Durham Academic Press, 1997), 86–92, 166.
. John Wesley, A Collection of Hymns, for the Use of the People Called Methodists (London: John Mason, 1828), 107.
. A similar inference that blindness in black religious discourse at this time might have referred to both physical and spiritual states is made in Saillant, “Make a Black Life, and Bid It Sing,” 159–160.
. The psychology of conversion in a predestinarian context is treated in Wiliam G. McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform: An Essay on Religion and Social Change in America, 1607–1977 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 45–63.
. For Baptist covenantalism, see William G. McLoughlin, New England Dissent, 1630–1833: The Baptists and the Separation of Church and State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), Volume 1, 28–48; Richard C. Traylor, Born of Water and Spirit: The Baptist Impulse in Kentucky, 1776–1860 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2015), 73–80; David A. Weir, Early New England: A Covenanted Society (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 180–189.
. For an example, see Vincent Carretta, Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005), 316–319.
. A superb explication of the black fascination with Nicodemus is Rosamond C. Rodman, “Naming a Place Nicodemus,” Great Plains Quarterly 28, no. 1 (Winter 2008): 49–62.
. Jason R. Young, Rituals of Resistance: African Atlantic Religion in Kongo and the Lowcountry South in the Era of Slavery (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007), 68.
. Young, Rituals of Resistance, 103–104.
. Saillant, “‘Wipe away All Tears from Their Eyes.’”
. Savannah Unit, Georgia Writers’ Project, Works Progress Administration, Drums and Shadows: Survival Studies among the Georgia Coastal Negroes (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1940), collected a variety of the stories. An argument for the imbrication of oral and written (especially novelistic) accounts of the story is Wendy W. Walters, “‘One of Dese Mornings, Bright and Fair,/Take My Wings and Cleave De Air:’ The Legend of the Flying Africans and Diasporic Consciousness,” MELUS 22, no. 3 (Autumn 1997): 3–29. A recent overview of the story, its origins, and its uses is Timothy B. Powell, “Summoning the Ancestors: The Flying Africans’ Story and Its Enduring Legacy,” in Morgan, ed., African American Life in the Georgia Lowcountry, 253–280. An argument that the flying Africans stories of the 1930s reflected an awareness among African Americans of “the Golden Age of Aviation (1919–39)” appears in Katherine Thorsteinson, “From Escape to Ascension: The Effects of Aviation Technology on the Flying African Myth,” Criticism 57, no. 2 (Spring 2015): 259–281, quotation page 259.
. Powell, “Summoning the Ancestors,” 253–254.
. Jason R. Young has written that “accounts of flying Africans reveal a ritual landscape that belies many of the modernist assumptions about the rational order of the known universe where people most certainly do not fly. While much of the writing devoted to this topic has sought to read these accounts as solely symbolic or metaphorical, I am suggesting that we try to understand these phenomena as antebellum slaves and their progeny might have understood them: as a world away from the dogged devotion to rationalism and empiricism.” Jason R. Young, “All God’s Children Had Wings: The Flying African in History, Literature, and Lore, Journal of Africana Religions 5, no. 1 (2017): 65–66. Everything we might identify as feeding into the notes and ceremonies examined in this essay—evangelical Calvinism, Baptist theology, and African Atlantic inheritances—were in fact in a world apart from rationalism and empiricism.