Mission and Uplift: Racial Politics and Methodist Education in the American South and Liberia
Paul W. Harris
Paul W. Harris is Emeritus Professor of History at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Cite this Article
Paul W. Harris, "Mission and Uplift: Racial Politics and Methodist Education in the American South and Liberia," Journal of Southern Religion (22) (2020): jsreligion.org/vol22/harris.
In his last letter to his daughter Mary, Gilbert Haven, the renowned abolitionist who had boldly taken up his episcopal residence in Atlanta after becoming a Methodist bishop, referred to the South as “our own Africa.” For Haven and other white leaders in the Methodist Episcopal Church, the American South represented a missionary cause. The issue of slavery had split American Methodism in 1844 into northern and southern branches (the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, respectively), and during the war northern Methodists had followed Union forces in an effort to reestablish their branch among freed slaves and sympathetic whites. At the center of their outreach to African Americans was the Freedmen’s Aid Society, founded in 1866 by a group of antislavery Methodists. That the Northern teachers who came South as part of the freedmen’s education movement followed a missionary calling is well known, but the implications of that have yet to be fully explored. This essay looks beyond the Reconstruction era to examine the fruits of the Northern Methodists’ missionary program as a generation of black leaders, operating within the framework of racial uplift ideology, sought to gain a voice and a place of equality within the denomination.
In the largest sense, the goal of the Freedmen’s Aid Society was to vanquish the racist legacy of slavery through a program of racial uplift. Less than a year after the surrender at Appomattox, the leading Methodist newspaper editorialized, “Probably the first thing needed in order to overcome the malignant prejudice will be to elevate the rising generation of colored people, so as to prepare them to command that respect which is seldom conceded either as a matter of justice or of mercy.” The goal of elevating freed slaves to respectability itself reflected Methodism’s rise from its origins as a kind of “countercultural movement” to a position of cultural centrality. In the words of David Hempton, by the time of the Civil War Methodists “had virtually abandoned the old ideal of an itinerant and egalitarian ministry” in favor of one “more educated, more cultivated, and more influential.” Although black Methodists still highly valued the vibrant spirituality that had originally drawn them to the denomination, an uplift program emphasizing education also struck a ready chord among a people who had been systematically denied any kind of schooling in slavery. As expressed at the initial meeting of the F. A. S. by Rev. John M. Walden, “the church which aids [the freedmen] most in the matter of education will gain the greatest influence over them.”
In fact, a surprisingly large number of Southern blacks and whites joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, making it a unique example of a biracial denomination. Given that slaves had long resisted the attempts of their masters to equate Christianity with submission and obedience, most Southern black Methodists readily shifted their loyalty after emancipation to one of their own denominations, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church Zion. Yet by 1893, 234,000 Southern blacks had joined a church that also boasted a membership of 269,000 Southern whites. That is an impressive record, far outstripping any other mixed-race denomination and including an estimated one in five of all black Methodist communicants.
The unique success of the Methodist Episcopal Church also created long-term challenges to its mission of a creating a denomination purged of racial caste. Notwithstanding the denomination’s antislavery heritage, most white Methodists in the North and South were not ready for a fully integrated denomination. An abstract commitment to “the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” could not expunge the taint of racial prejudice. “Assimilation and Not Separation” was a slogan that appealed to many black Methodists, but separation is what they got—separate congregations, separate annual conferences, and separate schools. While the aid of white allies promised eventual social acceptance, the Methodist program of uplift initially encouraged blacks to look inward, building up their own communities under their own leaders. As one black Methodist wrote, “Let us lift ourselves to the height of our responsibilities . . . and in due time the goal of our hopes will be reached, and we shall become in reality the peer of any branch of the human family, in every sphere and every vocation of civilized life.” In other words, although uplift ideology was fundamentally integrationist in its ultimate goal, it pursued assimilation through what Michele Mitchell describes as “concerted efforts to police intraracial activity.”
The leadership for uplifting the black community would come first and foremost from the ministry. Consistent with Protestant foreign missions generally in this period, the Southern work of Northern Methodists placed strong emphasis on raising up a native agency that would ultimately make the mission self-propagating. The “policy of ‘making freedmen the pastors of freedmen’” called for schools to train ministers who might serve as guiding lights in their congregations and communities. Like others involved in the freedmen’s education movement, Northern Methodist policy sought to turn primary education over to localities and to concentrate on secondary and collegiate education for training preachers and teachers. By 1890, the M. E. Church had developed a network of academies that prepared students for possible admission to one of twelve colleges serving the black population. At the pinnacle of that system was Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta.
For the white leadership of the M. E. Church, the emphasis on ministerial education grew from their perception that under slavery African Americans had developed a corrupt and degraded form of Christianity that placed too much emphasis on emotionalism and too little on instilling the standards of “civilized” morality—"industry, economy, frugality, patience, intelligence, virtue and piety” was one version of the litany. Those values were offered to and often embraced by black Methodists as a means of overcoming the dehumanizing legacy of slavery. A. E. P. Albert, an important leader of the African American members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, put it this way:
Our mothers, wives, and sisters that were made the slavish instruments of their masters[’] lusts, must here become the reflectors of all moral worth and virtuous excellencies. Our father and brothers that were, by the greatest severities and inquisitorial tortures, transformed into a skulking race of slavish cowards, must become the unconquerable patriots and cultured gentlemen.
While fully consistent with the ideology of uplift, Albert’s comments, with their acute awareness of slavery’s horrors and the enduring trauma for those who suffered under it, suggest a different perspective on uplift that inevitably distinguished those with a living memory of bondage from their white benefactors. Indeed, the very fact that this exhortation came from a black leader infused it with a note of race pride: even as he called on the freed slaves to improve themselves, a consciousness that they were not the authors of their own degradation served as a reminder that the prejudice they struggled against was also not of their own making. It was an article of faith among the black Methodists who chose to stay in a mixed-race denomination that successful uplift on their part would be reciprocated by well-meaning whites ready and willing to abandon their racial prejudice. This appears naïve in hindsight. Instead of changing the hearts and minds of the dominant group, the uplift efforts of Southern blacks were met by a swelling tide of segregation, disfranchisement, and lynching.
As Freedmen’s Aid Society schools fostered an emerging leadership among black Methodists, uplift ideology both constrained and empowered their responses to injustice. Northern Methodists clearly intended to enlist African Americans as partners in mission, and that role offered them a voice redolent with race pride and a sense of destiny. What the promise of inclusion could mean to those who embraced it was beautifully articulated by D. W. Hays, a prominent black minister in the M. E. Church. Hays wrote of his feeling “that I am not in the Church as an intruder, nor simply as a spectator, but as a co-worker with God and a member of his militant host who are striving, not only for the redemption of a race, but for the religious conquest of the whole world.” It was an “ennobling view” that helped him overcome “the degrading feeling that I am only a despised colored man.”
Hays was far from alone in putting the Methodist’s mission to the American South in a global context. In particular, as the F. A. S. Board of Managers reported to the Church’s General Conference of 1876, “The great want of our Church in the South is an intelligent and properly trained ministry . . . Hundreds are now in our schools, preparing for the ministry and for missionaries in Africa.” Two familiar strands of American racial thought—the ideologies of uplift and the civilizing mission—thus share a common source in Protestant missions, a connection that is slowly being recognized as historians increasingly put the African-American freedom struggle in a diasporic context. As a mission field in its own right, the American South drew missionaries to promote uplift among the freed slaves. However, the South was simultaneously regarded by northerners as a recruiting ground for enlisting missionaries to bring an enlightened Christianity to their brethren in Africa.
More specifically, the approach taken by Northern Methodists toward the freed slaves closely resembled missions to other so-called “nominal Christians.” In such cases, the goal was not so much to win converts as to convince people who already professed Christianity that missionaries offered a purer and more elevated form of Christianity, and that embracing it promised empowerment for more effective action in the world. The benefits of uplift would presumably have a ripple effect, and African Americans were ensured that their efforts would ultimately overcome prejudice and improve the status of their race. In the foreign field, missionaries who disseminated these Victorian traits might win converts by demonstrating the superiority of Christianity to non-Christians. Indeed, black Methodist missionaries to Africa would be called to the same kind of uplift efforts among Americo-Liberians who, it was hoped, would thereby become more effective partners in the evangelization of their indigenous neighbors.
The Northern Methodists’ approach to racial uplift seems consistent with the definition offered by Kevin Gaines in his influential critique. Although Gaines recognizes that uplift could mean different things to different people and “represented the struggle for a positive black identity in a deeply racist society,” he depicts this “culture of self-improvement . . . as a form of cultural politics, in the hope that unsympathetic whites would relent and recognize the humanity of middle-class African Americans.” Yet missionary education has a way of producing unintended consequences, and the African Americans who joined the M. E. Church were neither cynical opportunists seeking to curry favor with the white establishment nor victims of a kind of internalized racism that led them to deny their own culture. To them, racial uplift offered a strategy that looked both inward for the means to strengthen the black community and outward for white allies in the struggle to overcome race prejudice. Regardless of how whites responded in the present, the black leadership in the M. E. Church pointed with pride to their people’s progress in intelligence, morals, and prosperity. The problem, however, was that white civilization remained the standard for measuring their progress, and questioning that assumption proved their greatest challenge.
The project of exporting racial uplift through the schools of Liberia, though well intentioned, both reflected the weaknesses of Northern Methodist commitment to racial equality and exposed some of the shortcomings of uplift ideology. Racial uplift, as it turned out, was more favorably received and successfully promoted in the United States than was the civilizing mission in Africa. This was largely because that ideology was essentially assimilationist in its ultimate objectives. It looked toward the creation of a more inclusive Christian civilization that would transcend racial differences, and it appealed to African Americans because they recognized that their future was bound up with white society and that assimilation into the dominant culture was therefore rational. In a place like Liberia, however, none of this was salient, and the promotion of uplift made little headway. Even in the United States, uplift had limitations that thwarted the ambitions of the African Americans who joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. This essay compares two Methodist schools—contrasting the relative success of Gammon Theological Seminary with the fate of the College of West Africa— and illustrates how the missionary roots of uplift ideology were a source of both hope and disappointment for aspiring African Americans.
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The commitment of the Methodist Episcopal Church to African American education and uplift derived from a combination of denominational ambition, antislavery heritage, and missionary calling. Like the Republican Party with which it often identified, the M. E. Church aspired to transform itself from a Northern institution into a national one by appealing to freed slaves and white Unionists. Why so many freed slaves chose to join a white-dominated denomination is not entirely clear. Perhaps to many the distinction was not initially apparent, since the Methodist churches were rarely integrated at the congregational level. Additionally, the denomination’s substantial political influence enabled a number of congregations to gain control of church property that had formerly belonged to the M. E. Church, South. Credit is also due to the Methodists’ willingness to invest in educating teachers and preachers under the aegis of the Freedmen’s Aid Society. Convinced that low morality went hand in hand with freed slaves’ ignorance of true Christianity, they sought to prepare leaders who might serve as guiding lights in uplifting their people. For those emerging leaders, their loyalty to the Methodist Episcopal Church rested primarily on its inclusiveness. A prophetic commitment to “the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” offered hope that caste barriers could be overcome and a manly friendship with Southern whites could develop within the Church’s biracial fellowship.
At the summit of the Methodist network of schools for blacks, and at the center of the Liberia project, was Gammon Theological Seminary. Work on developing a theological school had begun in 1872 when the Corresponding Secretary of the Freedmen’s Aid Society, Richard Rust, had been dispatched to Atlanta to negotiate the purchase of property. A small theology department developed there as part of Clark University, but theological education took off in the 1880s thanks to the benevolence of Elijah H. Gammon. Gammon was a native of Maine who had served in the Methodist ministry for fifteen years until a throat ailment had ended his preaching career. He then entered business and made a fortune in the manufacture of agricultural implements. In 1882, he was approached by Bishop Henry W. Warren, who succeeded in interesting him in plans to develop a theological school at Clark University. An initial gift of $5,000 to assist in constructing a building was quickly followed by an additional $20,000 for an endowed professorship. That position was filled by Wilbur P. Thirkield, and Gammon studied Thirkield’s progress over the next few years before deciding that the school would be his great legacy. He added $180,000 to the endowment in 1887 on the condition that the school separate from Clark in order to gain greater visibility and prominence. In establishing an independent school, fittingly renamed Gammon Theological Seminary, Gammon sought to make it the equal of the denomination’s major seminaries in the North and “the best theological school of the whole South, white or black.” Indeed, when he left the seminary half his remaining estate upon his wife’s death in 1892, it became one of the richest schools in the South.
Perched on a hill at the southern edge of Atlanta and visible from the state capitol, Gammon Seminary stood as a monument to aspirations for racial progress and attracted students from the Methodist as well as the African Methodist denominations. From an original class of 19 students in 1883, the student body grew to 93 by 1895. With Gammon’s money and Thirkield’s direction, it became a “little village” where devout men and their wives prepared for a life of service to their people. One of the early innovations was to construct a number of cottages for married students, enabling them to maintain a proper home life somewhat removed from the vices of Atlanta’s Darktown. In this sheltered community, students were exhorted to become both scholars and leaders. In 1887, for example, guest lecturer Rev. John Vincent, the Corresponding Secretary of the Sunday School Union and Tract Society, urged them to “be not effeminate, but robust and positive manhood—a pure, clean man.” The minister “should not be moulded by his congregations, but with a well-balanced will, stand against the current of popular opinion, if it is wrong.” To that end, he advised them, “Study systematically . . . Instead of studying sermons study subjects.” Among those subjects should be psychology and “the relations of capital and labor . . . Honesty, integrity in business, purity in politics should be discussed in the pulpit . . . Glorify self-possession through self-control, by which you are a master of yourself.”Paradoxically perhaps, students were encouraged to look outward and develop an understanding of their world, but to turn inward when it came to reform. Uplift was promoted ahead of activism.
How well these lessons took hold can be glimpsed from the student orations presented at the following year’s commencement. One graduate spoke on the subject of “The Power of the Home, the School and the Pulpit,” emphasizing that “in the home are laid the foundation stones of all that is good and pure, both in civilization and religion.” Another’s topic was “The Evils of Intemperance,” and he called for combating intemperance by making “men strong enough to resist it . . . and giving women her right place in the movement.” In his address on “Elements of True Manhood,” a student proclaimed, “It does not depend upon complexion or condition” but rather upon “a fixed purpose, self-sacrifice, . . . and virtue.” An oration looked for “The Elevation and Christianization of the Negro” through education and “individual effort,” claiming, “The fetters of passion and appetite fasten closer around our intellect and will than ever did the shackles about our limbs.”
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One of the proudest and, to its patrons, most promising moments in the early history of the Gammon School of Theology was the 1886 commencement speech delivered by Rev. Atticus G. Haygood. Haygood drew considerable attention from Northern Methodists when he proclaimed that “it may well be questioned whether any single institution in the Southern States could not be better spared.” He opined “that the religious life of the colored people in the days of slavery was not what it ought to have been; yet among them were the holiest of men and women.” Although Haygood “could say unhesitatingly, [the African American’s] religion is his strongest and best characteristic,” it was a religion that had “brought over from slavery, and conditions that go back through the centuries, elements of weakness and danger . . . of evil and superstition.” Thus, the path forward seemed clear: “All there is of hope for him in this country will rise or fall with the healthy development or the decay of his religion. Without true religion, pure home life is as impossible to the Negro as it is to the white man; without pure home life, Christian civilization is inconceivable.”Those three pillars of religion, home, and civilization neatly summarized the ideology of uplift behind the era’s educational philanthropy.
Haygood's speech was especially welcomed because he was a prominent white Southerner. As an important figure in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and a leader in educational philanthropy through his work for the Slater Fund, Haygood offered hope that educational missions were opening the way to a better future for African Americans in the South. Although he acknowledged “that, with few exceptions, the white people of the South do not justly appreciate” institutions like Gammon, he expressed confidence that “increasing light and ever-growing candor will convert them to right views.” That assurance proved profoundly overoptimistic, but in the 1880s idealistic Northerners could still imagine that white moderates were gradually changing the racial climate in the South.
Indeed, in those first years President Thirkield seems to have enjoyed generally friendly relations with Southern whites. The Atlanta Constitution sang his praises in 1889: “Mr. Thirkield is doing a great work in the south, and is receiving invitations to preach and lecture all over the country. He is a favorite with our people.” Yet Thirkield was also Gilbert Haven’s son-in-law and heir to his abolitionist legacy, and he had to be careful about speaking too publicly and aggressively about right principles where racial issues were concerned. One year later, the newspaper chastised him for a speech he made to the annual meeting of the Freedmen’s Aid Society. Thirkield’s speech gave a lurid account of Southern “barbarism,” alluding to “dense, dark sections where the lowest vices and bestial relations prevail.” This would surely have been passed over without comment if Thirkield had merely referred to black sections in these terms, but he clearly had whites in mind as well. In blaming “the race problem” on “the ignorance of the masses,” he referenced the legacy of slavery in not only making “education a crime for the negro,” but also in failing to provide “schools for the poor whites.” And he forthrightly proclaimed, “The law gives small chance to crushed and violated black womanhood. She is the prey of both races.” Moreover, Thirkield argued that blacks were consigned to barbarism in part because of “the almost entire separation of the races . . . on the higher levels of civil, educational and religious life.” Because “the lines of contact between the races that make for sympathy and respect, diverge more and more with the new generations,” Thirkield warned that the South faced “a tempest of strife and revolution.” The indignant editors of the Atlanta Constitution complained, “There is no more barbarism among the whites of the south today than there is among the whites of the north, and there is less crime of every form and shape.” They were especially irked “that the missionaries of the Northern Methodist church came to the south with their head as full as they could stick of the social equality idea.” They argued tellingly that the Methodists themselves also practiced separation of the races, but misleadingly claimed that their black membership wanted it that way as much as whites did.
Essentially, white Georgians resented depictions of the South as a mission field, for Thirkield’s speech had been intended first and foremost as mission propaganda. He compared the South of his day with the West of a previous generation, which purportedly had been saved from the threat of barbarism by the home missionary movement. He called for a similar effort to plant churches and schools because “certain parts of the south are sunk almost to the level of the heart of Africa.” Yet Thirkield was hardly one to overlook the progress that African Americans had made. He remarked, “With many the question is not what shall we do for the negro, but what shall we do with the negro. As he rises into power this question more and more harasses me.” One answer to that question was to direct the graduates of Freedmen’s Aid Society schools toward Africa as a mission field. Despite their perception that the American South still had crying needs, Methodists launched an ambitious campaign in the 1890s aimed at sending educated African Americans as missionaries to Africa.
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Interest in Africa as a potential mission field for African Americans was not new in the 1890s, and some efforts had been taken to nourish a calling among the students in Freedmen’s Aid Society schools. The new initiative was largely due to the appearance, once again, of a wealthy benefactor from the North. William F. Stewart was a Methodist minister with a long-standing commitment to racial justice and a fortune built up through speculative land investments in Illinois. Stewart had originally thought to use his land as the site for a missionary training school but was persuaded instead to offer it as an endowment for establishing the Stewart Missionary Foundation. The foundation was administered by the faculty of Gammon Seminary “for the diffusion of missionary intelligence, the development of missionary enthusiasm, the increase of missionary offerings” and would, “through sanctified and trained missionaries hasten obedience to the great commission to ‘preach the gospel to every creature.’” This promotional work would be accomplished through prize contests, missionary bands in their schools, missionary lectures and publications, the creation in Atlanta of a library and museum on Africa, and the organization of a Congress on Africa in connection with the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition.
John Wesley Edward Bowen, Gammon’s sole black faculty member, served as secretary for the Congress on Africa and subsequently edited the proceedings for publication. Bowen’s rise to that position was one of the great success stories of the Freedmen’s Aid Society. Born in New Orleans in 1855, Bowen was deeply influenced by the example of his father, Edward, who achieved the remarkable feat of purchasing his own freedom and that of his family. John grew up in poverty but proved to be a gifted and eager student, and he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New Orleans University. After briefly teaching ancient languages at Central Tennessee College, he departed in 1882 for Boston University, where he earned both a Bachelor of Sacred Theology and a Doctor of Philosophy, making him one of the most highly educated African Americans in the country. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., many decades later, Bowen took from his studies in Boston a prophetic appropriation of theological liberalism. His belief in “progressive revelation” supported an abiding faith that mankind was evolving psychologically toward the end of racism. As African Americans matured through the progress of racial uplift, a divine plan would gradually unfold toward human solidarity. Bowen’s successful pastorates in Newark, Baltimore, and Washington further bolstered his reputation within the M. E. Church. At the same time, he taught at Morgan College and Howard University, and served as Field Secretary for the Missionary Board of the M. E. Church. In 1893 he was appointed to Gammon’s chair of historical theology. He appears to have been accepted as an equal and worked amicably with his faculty colleagues: Thirkield, James C. Murray, and Edward L. Parks. Bowen assumed the presidency of Gammon in 1906 and held that post until 1910.
If Thirkield struggled between cultivating friendly relations with Southern whites and turning a blind eye to injustice, for Bowen that challenge was compounded. In addition to his role in organizing the Congress on Africa for the Cotton States Exposition, he was also invited to serve as keynote speaker at the opening of the fair’s Negro Building, a showcase for the achievements of African Americans since emancipation. The principal organizer of the Negro Building was I. Garland Penn, another young, black Methodist and product of the Freedmen’s Aid Society schools who had emerged as a race leader. Although Bowen’s address, entitled “An Appeal to the King,” was already upstaged by Booker T. Washington’s famous Atlanta Compromise speech delivered at the Exposition a month earlier, it gained its share of publicity through both the local and Methodist papers.
Bowen began his speech by paying homage to Booker T. Washington, repeating the praise of “a distinguished citizen of Georgia” who had remarked after the Atlanta Compromise address, “That man’s speech is the beginning of a moral revolution in America.” Bowen even repeated one of Washington’s sentimental tales of the old ties between master and slave. Yet “An Appeal to the King” was in many respects very different from Washington’s speech, going well beyond Washington’s narrow focus on industrial education as the path toward racial advancement. Bowen’s optimistic theology led him to look toward a time, perhaps centuries in the future, “when the present inequalities and maladjustments will be remedied and human society become so based that there shall be equality of opportunity for every human being.” His larger vision implied the need for whites as well as blacks to change, as he spoke of “the so-called race problem, which has been popularly interpreted to mean the Negro race problem. A truer and larger conception of the subject would speak of the human race problem.” And Bowen reiterated, “There can be but one answer to this question, namely, equality of opportunity.”
Bowen’s call for equality of opportunity combined elements of racial self-help and uplift with an unequivocal plea for allowing full scope to all the gifts of the race. He said, “The Negro’s place will be what he makes for himself, just as the place of every people is what that people makes for itself.” He asked his audience “that the sins of the vicious be not charged to the whole race” and assured them that his people were “making an heroic effort to expel from its system all the virus of degrading sin, and thus far we have made progress.” Yet alongside this rhetoric of uplift, Bowen also took clear issue with the Washingtonian ideology that would limit black education to industrial training. Bowen insisted that the African American must be a worker not just with his hands, but “a worker in the realm of the mind, contributing to the thought products of mankind, thereby vindicating for himself a birthright in the republic of thought, a statesman in Church and in State, a publicist and a political economist; in short, he must be a man among men, not so much a black man, but a man, though black.” To that end, “the education of the Negro must be on a par with the education of the white man.” With the development of his capacity for thought, Bowen concluded, “a new Negro has come upon the stage of action . . . With this new birth of the soul, he longs for an opportunity to grow into the proportions of a new and diviner manhood that shall take its place in the ranks of one common humanity.” Bowen’s speech, in short, combined elements of Washington’s program of self-help with W. E. B. DuBois’s ideology of the Talented Tenth, emphasizing equal educational opportunity for the development of race leaders.
By this time, equality of opportunity and taking one’s place in the ranks of humanity had taken on a specific meaning in the politics of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Having acquiesced to separate conferences and effectively separate schools, black Methodists had set their sights on the election of an African American bishop as the measure of white Methodists’ willingness to grant them equality. J. W. E. Bowen’s impressive résumé made him the leading candidate, and he made strong showings at the General Conferences of 1896, 1900, and 1904. His candidacy received a boost from the Committee on Episcopacy, which resolved in 1896 that the time had come when they could “safely and wisely choose a bishop from” among the African American ministry, and then adding more strongly in 1900 that “we recognize the need of such an officer among our people of African descent.” That year Bowen received 211 votes on the first ballot, the second highest total of any candidate but less than the number needed for election. Yet Bowen’s count only went down after that, since few delegates were open to switching their votes to an African American on subsequent ballots as the field narrowed. A deep aversion to placing a black man in a position of general authority over whites prevented Bowen from ever achieving the church’s highest office. African Americans had staunch allies, especially within the ranks of the Freedmen’s Aid Society, but the denomination as a whole reflected the racial attitudes of the larger culture.
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The first bishop to come through the Freedmen’s Aid Society schools was not Bowen, but Isaiah B. Scott, who was elected missionary bishop in 1904 to take charge of the work in Liberia. The difference was that, unlike other bishops, missionary bishops were not empowered with the general superintendency that would give them authority over white conferences as well as black. The racial politics of the M. E. Church thus suggest another reason for the interest in sending black missionaries to Africa. There, African Americans could have scope for developing leadership without posing a threat to whites. Just as whites and blacks were placed into separate conferences in the US, their mission work in Africa would also be divided. This plan was put forward by Joseph C. Hartzell following his election as missionary bishop to Africa in 1896. Hartzell was an impressive figure in his own right, who had first gained notoriety as a young man when he rescued four men from drowning in Lake Michigan. When he transferred from Illinois to New Orleans in 1870, he brought the same fearlessness to the struggle for racial equality. He earned a reputation as a staunch friend of black Methodists, serving as a minister, presiding elder, founder and editor of the Southwestern Christian Advocate, and then as a corresponding secretary with the Freedmen’s Aid Society. His election as missionary bishop reinvigorated the M. E. Church’s African missions, which had suffered badly under his predecessor, William Taylor. Under Hartzell’s leadership, African American missionaries were aggressively sought to take over the mission in Liberia, where presumably they shared some common roots with the Americo-Liberians. Meanwhile, the efforts of white missionaries were directed toward developing new fields among indigenous Africans in southern Africa.
Designating Liberia as the mission field for African American Methodists had the effect, in more ways than one, of making their work an extension of educational uplift missions at home. Liberia was the oldest foreign mission of the American Methodists, begun in 1833 in response to the establishment of the colony for freed slaves and free blacks. Their first missionary, Melville Cox, lived only four and a half months after arriving, but his epitaph—“Let a thousand die before Africa be given up”—had become a legendary source of inspiration. Unfortunately, their mission had given Methodists little to celebrate since. Cox had been dying of tuberculosis even before his departure, so his death could not be blamed on the climate, but high mortality rates proved all too typical among Americans coming to Liberia during the nineteenth century. Of the twenty-four white missionaries sent out by 1875, only three survived more than nineteen months. In the absence of a stable missionary presence, Americo-Liberian settlers had been left largely free to develop their churches as they saw fit. Not surprisingly, American observers, both white and black, voiced many of the same criticisms of Christian practice in Liberia that had been leveled against the Christianity of the former slaves. Indeed, Liberia had also attracted two of the great intellects in nineteenth-century black history, Edward Wilmot Blyden and Alexander Crummell, but they too had been frustrated in their efforts to build up Liberia into a nation that could command the respect either of indigenous Africans or the outside world.
If missions had limited impact on the Americo-Liberians, they had even less on the indigenous groups around them. Yet part of the goal of the colonization movement had always looked toward the Christianization of Africa through the influence of Liberian colonists. Henry McNeal Turner, an outspoken bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the leading advocate of emigration to Africa during the late nineteenth century, had visited Liberia twice in an effort to promote missions there. However, as his biographer Stephen Angell concludes, his trips may have been “a greater success from a standpoint of black pride than from a denominational standpoint.” Turner’s observations defended Africans against racist denigration, but the African American missionary he brought to Liberia suffered the same mortal fate that so many white missionaries had.
Many factors contributed to Liberia’s limited value for missions, but the small, fragile colony’s relations with its indigenous neighbors had always been primarily defensive. Not surprisingly, native Africans regarded colonists in their country more as interlopers than as brothers and sisters returning from exile, and hostilities were endemic. Hopes rested, then, on transforming Liberia into a strong, prosperous, and progressive nation that could absorb willing natives into its culture. This nation-building project made uplift seem like a logical strategy for missions.
However, that strategy proved highly problematic. The first challenge was actually inducing African Americans to enlist for the work. The pool of college-educated African American Methodist ministers was not large to begin with, and those who achieved that height presumably looked forward to a promising future in America, where a pastorate might afford entry into the black middle class. Indeed, the missionary movement had a conflicted attitude toward the emigrationist movement. R. S. Lovingood, one of the leading black ministers and educators in the Methodist Episcopal Church, pointedly disagreed with Henry McNeal Turner, who called on African Americans to return to Africa because he believed that the United States was hopelessly sunk in racism. Lovingood acknowledged “the sad and woeful condition of the Negro in this country,” but he insisted, “Our condition cannot be remedied by going to Africa.” Missionaries might go “as individuals,” but he was convinced that for most African Americans, the “opportunities for acquiring the elements of power in America are superior.” Most missionaries to Africa regarded their work as part of a global campaign to incorporate black people into “civilization,” confident that such uplift would ultimately diminish prejudice among whites. African Americans who had made a decision to join a biracial denomination would seem in many ways the least likely candidates for enlisting in the struggle to establish an all-black nation in Africa.
Despite promotional efforts (which did succeed in raising awareness of Africa), Hartzell was frustrated that so few volunteered. He wrote to Thirkield a few months after his election as missionary bishop, “What is the matter? Am I not to find a single black man who is willing to go with me?” Yet in Alexander Camphor, Hartzell found a candidate who made up in quality what was lacking in quantity. Camphor was, quite literally, the Stewart Foundation’s prize recruit, having won their first competition with his composition, “A Hymn of Sympathy and Prayer for Africa.”
Camphor embodied the Methodist ideal of Christian manhood that had been promoted as key to racial uplift. An imposing figure, his physical vigor enabled him to adapt successfully to the climate of Liberia. Intellectually, he demonstrated both mental discipline and breadth of learning, and he seems to have been both deeply pious and morally upright. Camphor was born in a Louisiana slave cabin in 1865. Though his parents were but recently freed from slavery, his father was literate, and after his father’s death, his mother placed Camphor with Rev. Stephen Priestly, a presiding elder in the Methodist Episcopal Church whom she had known as “a fellow servant in bondage.” Priestly took charge of the boy’s education and, with his help, Camphor went on to graduate from the University of New Orleans in 1889. He so distinguished himself at the university that he was appointed Professor of Mathematics upon graduation, one of the first African Americans to join a college faculty.
Camphor’s interest in Africa may have begun at an early age, for his mother claimed descent from “a princess and direct heir to the throne of her tribe” in West Africa. As a student at New Orleans University, he joined the first band of “The Friends of Africa,” which had been launched by Methodist Bishop W. F. Mallalieu, a New Englander who had been assigned to New Orleans in 1884 to join in the work that Gilbert Haven, his close friend and mentor, had championed. Members of The Friends of Africa pledged “to pray each day for Africa’s redemption” and to gather information and prepare themselves for a call to missionary work. A calling to missions may have motivated Camphor to leave his teaching position in New Orleans and continue his education at Gammon Theological Seminary. In any event, he was destined for Liberia by the time he graduated, and in 1896 he arrived to assume the presidency of Monrovia Seminary, soon to be renamed the College of West Africa.
Camphor sought to make the College of West Africa exactly the same force for racial uplift in Liberia that his mentors in the Methodist Freedmen’s Aid Society had sought in the colleges they founded. His prize-winning “Hymn of Sympathy and Prayer for Africa” evinced both the missionary’s sense of Africa’s need for enlightened Christianity and an aspiration for racial justice. The hymn’s first three verses are fairly standard fare for missionary propaganda, containing lines such as “There, for many, many ages,/ Ling’ring still in blackest night,/ Africa, dark land of hist’ry,/ Void of light, is void of light.” Yet the last verse strikes a note that suggests how Camphor understood African missions from the particular point of view of an African American:
Africa, thou ebon country,
How we long to set thee free!
E’er shall we, for thy redemption,
Work and pray, till thou shall be
Free from every degradation,
That has cursed thy sunny land . . .
For African Americans like Camphor, the call to missions derived in part from their sense that the fates of black people throughout the diaspora were bound together. Entering the mission field in the same year that the Supreme Court pronounced the doctrine of “separate but equal” in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, Camphor was surely aware that African Americans still faced many daunting challenges before they could be truly free in this country. At the same time, racist perceptions of black people also rested on the belief that Africa was a barbaric continent that had contributed nothing to civilization and demonstrated no capacity for orderly self-government. If Liberia could be uplifted into a strong, Christian nation, its independence and prosperity could serve as a powerful demonstration of what black people were capable of achieving. To John H. Reed, Camphor’s eventual successor at the College of West Africa, the opportunity for African Americans in missions to Africa represented “an open door of hope [that] certainly indicates the awakening of the best thought in both Church and State as to the future citizenship and national destiny of ten million blacks on this side of the seas.”
* * * * *
By the time the Camphors arrived in Liberia, its nationhood had become even more threatened by the rise of European imperialism. The partition of Africa at the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885 had left Liberia and Ethiopia as the only remaining independent African countries, and Liberia’s independence was in constant peril. Because of its failure to secure the loyalty of native tribes and its inability to control its hinterland, Liberia was unable to defend its claims to the interior and steadily lost territory to France. In 1898, Germany sought to resolve a dispute with Liberia by negotiating a secret treaty to establish a protectorate, and the Liberian government enlisted Hartzell to seek the protection of the United States or Britain instead. Partly due to Hartzell’s ministrations, for which the Liberian government made him a Knight Commander of the National Order of African Redemption, the affair ended in a standoff that temporarily preserved Liberian independence. The growing influence of the British created a new threat, and Liberia increasingly looked to the United States to step up to its historic responsibility for the nation it had been instrumental in creating. By 1907, prominent African Americans like Booker T. Washington and T. Thomas Fortune had taken up the cause and persuaded President Roosevelt to use his influence on Liberia’s behalf.
Methodist influence had not contributed greatly to nation-building in Liberia. In 1895, Liberia's Postmaster General, S. Ford Dennis, reported to the Board of Missions in New York that, though the “M. E. Church is . . . the largest denomination in Liberia, and best adapted to the people, . . . the people generally have lost confidence in and have no respect for the Ministry.” He lamented, “Her Ministry intellectually is not up to the requirements of the times nor what it was only 10 years ago & morally they are sadly deficient.” Hopes of improving the situation through education also appeared dim. While on furlough in 1893 from her position as principal and teacher at Monrovia Seminary, Miss M. M. Dingman complained that her students were unmotivated because “the state of the country, as regards trades, and public works, leaves no room for the student to expect to better his condition, either socially or financially, by his better mental culture.”
From his post in Monrovia, Camphor became acutely aware of the extent to which Liberia’s troubles stemmed from its own internal shortcomings. A year after his arrival, he wrote to Hartzell about the conditions he had found in Liberia. His critique of one Americo-Liberian Methodist minister revealed the goals Camphor had set for religious uplift: “His sermons are mere empty harangues—nothing to inspire and ennoble the people and urge them forward to a better and larger life and more active service for Christ and his cause.” He proceeded to offer a list of twelve “discouraging” observations he had made. He had witnessed great “shiftlessness . . . ignorance . . . immorality—among members of church & men in civil positions.” He and his wife Mamie (also a graduate of New Orleans University) had found “No men and women of character and education . . . No society.” A culture of self-seeking individuals made for a weak government and hence poor sanitation and no “respectable schools.” And perhaps most discouraging from the point of view of his mission, Americo-Liberians were prejudiced toward the natives and utterly indifferent to missionary efforts directed at “Heathendom.”
The Camphors discovered that Monrovians showed little inclination toward becoming the beacon of Christian civilization they had hoped to foster. Monrovia was an insular small town where honor, reputation, and a veneer of refinement conferred all the status that most people desired. Those who achieved that status felt that they already embodied civilization compared to the indigenous Africans. To an embarrassingly large extent, their concept of civilization was modeled on memories of the planter-dominated slave society the original settlers had escaped, and they evinced much the same feeling of superiority toward natives that masters showed toward their slaves. These were not people easily impressed by the Camphors’ message of racial uplift.
For most of his time in Monrovia, Camphor managed to maintain a confident tone about the progress of the college. Yet after witnessing the largesse of Methodist donors towards the Freedmen’s Aid Society schools in the US, he could not help feeling neglected. Complaints initially centered on the building he had inherited, which was too small for a college to begin with and had suffered badly from the effects of the climate in Monrovia, one of the wettest places on earth. When Camphor wrote to New York in 1901 to report that monetary drafts had been lost or stolen, he gave vent to his frustration, complaining that Missionary Society officials “don’t seem to notice our correspondence. It seems to me a matter of mere courtesy, if not anything else, they ought to answer the letters of their correspondents. Other brethren complain also.” He visited the US the following year and tried to raise funds for the school. Unfortunately, no Elijah Gammon or William Stewart surfaced to support his cause. Instead, Camphor requested that all missionary collections from the colored conferences for the next three quarters be allocated toward a new building and scholarships in Liberia. That request apparently also fell on deaf ears, and his problems with the facilities continued. In 1903 the building “caught the full force of . . . a terrific tornado” and lost a portion of its roof, and workers told him that it “was almost beyond repair.” He lamented that during the rainy season, “our large family of teachers and students was constantly embarrassed by leaks and dampness.”
Still deeper troubles emerged in 1904 when rumors began to circulate that during Mamie’s absence, a teacher at the school had taken on the role of “the second Mrs. Camphor.” Camphor and his wife blamed the rumors on another teacher, Ida Sharp, whom he described as a woman with “ambitions to shine in society, and have gentleman admirers.” In her quest, Sharp played to the vanity of the Americo-Liberians and went “about telling people we do not like Liberians . . . She says this because we do not make ourselves common in the community as she does. My wife and I have, from the beginning, striven to set a high standard among the people.” Many Americo-Liberians, however, apparently construed setting a high standard as putting on airs. Clearly, some portion of the Americo-Liberian community resented the Camphors for questioning their standards of civilization, and at least one teacher was willing to turn against the Camphors in order to gain their acceptance.
The final straw came when a jury ruled against Camphor in a lawsuit brought by Prof. W. F. Hawkins, who was demanding extra pay for serving as acting president of the college while Camphor was in America. Evidence in the case showed that Hawkins did not perform any additional duties and that his authority was not recognized by the other faculty because of conduct that included exposing himself in class, urinating in a bottle that ultimately overflowed, and regularly missing work on Mondays. Hawkins reportedly won not because he had a strong case, but because “Public sentiment . . . regarded [him] as a victim [after] his lawyer stirred the prejudices and sympathies of the illiterate jury.” In the face of this evidence that the public in Monrovia had turned against him, Camphor felt that his influence there was stymied.
Shortly after this incident, Camphor requested to move the college into the interior. He complained, “Our Americo-Liberian work is practically at a stand still.” As traders increasingly penetrated the interior, he could see no reason why missions should be confined to the coast. “The only future for our church here,” as far as he was concerned, lay “in those healthful uplands and among those splendid types of natives” as yet “untouched and uninvaded.”When his proposal failed to gain support at home, he resigned from the College in March 1907, explaining, “Monrovia is not Africa.” Trying to train up natives there had not availed because once they reached adolescence “they are actually spoiled by the worldliness and dandyism of Liberian fashion. Instead of being educated to help their heathen people they are educated away from them, and they go from us worse than they would be if left wholly in heathenism . . . I am thoroughly convinced that we are simply wasting time and precious life and God’s money, by longer remaining in this barren sea port town, with its officialisms, its worldliness, its distractions and vices.” With a unanimous endorsement of his plan from the local Methodist conference, Camphor left Africa in hopes of raising funds on his own for a new operation in the interior of Liberia.
Camphor was succeeded at the College of West Africa by John H. Reed, a friend of his since their student days together at New Orleans University. Reed’s tenure proved no more successful than Camphor’s. In his initial assessment, Reed reported that they had no students doing collegiate level work and recommended that they drop the pretense. He appeared to reject the whole premise of the uplift strategy, writing, “the College idea as projected under the conditions as obtain in a heathen land must inevitably prove a failure.” It took almost two decades of further difficulties, but the collegiate department was finally discontinued in 1925. The College of West Africa remained in operation as a high school, and in 1933, after six years of construction, they finally completed a new building.
* * * * *
While Alexander Camphor despaired of uplifting the Americo-Liberians, events in Atlanta revealed the shortcomings of racial uplift in the United States as well. In September 1906, Atlanta erupted in the worst race riot in the city’s history. Stoked by a vicious race-baiting gubernatorial campaign and sensationalistic journalism depicting blacks as rapists and criminals, white mobs initially attacked African Americans in the city’s vice district, but the riot soon spread. Following attacks on black streetcar passengers and black-owned businesses, rioters began an assault on black neighborhoods. A pitched battle was fought in the working-class district known as Darktown, and when the residents succeeded in repulsing that attack, the mob turned toward the more middle-class neighborhood of Brownsville, home to Gammon and Clark College. J. W. E. Bowen, now the newly appointed president of Gammon Seminary, appealed to the authorities for troops to protect the colleges, but instead they attempted to arrest any African American found in possession of firearms. When their first effort was repulsed, a dragnet was organized that resulted in the arrest of three hundred African Americans. Among those arrested was Bowen himself, who was injured in the process by the blow of a policeman’s rifle butt to his head. The riot posed a severe test for those like Bowen who placed their faith in a strategy of racial uplift. A major premise of the strategy was that whites could be convinced to abandon racial hierarchy in favor of a status hierarchy based on moral character. However, the riot seemed to demonstrate conclusively that white Atlantans made no distinction between the “better class” of African Americans and the “lowlife.” Indeed, Clark professor William Crogman commented on the irony when he wrote to Mary White Ovington that “the lawless element, the element we have condemned, fights back, and it is to these people that we owe our lives.” 
The Atlanta riot strengthened doubts about the efficacy of uplift as an antidote to racism. Rumblings of doubt could be traced back to the rise of Jim Crow segregation on the railroads, which was imposed on all African Americans alike, regardless of appearance and decorum. With the alarming increase in lynchings during the 1890s, those rumblings became more distinct, though still a minority voice. It began to dawn on some that Southern whites remained nostalgic for the faithful servants of slavery times and regarded African Americans “of dignity and culture, and noble manhood” as “offensive” and threatening.
The once bright promise of Gammon Theological Seminary also seemed tarnished by the nadir in race relations. It did not suffer the fate of the College of West Africa, but Gammon too was struggling by the time of the Atlanta riot. Attendance at the school had increased steadily for its first thirteen years, but fell off sharply around the turn of the century, from a peak of 93 students to only 45 by 1904. Though Gammon had attracted both generous white benefactors and eager, prepared students, its advantages did not mean that highly educated black ministers were capable of overcoming white prejudice and creating equal opportunity, even within the Methodist Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, attendance soared at Meharry Medical College, another Freedmen’s Aid Society school, and leading Methodists fretted that the opportunities in medicine seemed so much more attractive than those in the ministry.
The indifference of Americo-Liberians to racial uplift suggests something about the politics of uplift in the United States as well. For all their other problems—and they were legion—Americo-Liberians were at least free on a day-to-day basis from having to worry about what white people thought of them. Their culture may not have offered an appealing model of civilization, but they were not afflicted with what W. E. B. DuBois famously dubbed double-consciousness, “this sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others.” In both Liberia and the US, black Methodists had to come to terms with a deeply racialized concept of civilization that regarded all things African as inferior, and a program of racial uplift was not in itself going to change that.
Yet a continuing evolution can be seen in the image of the “New Negro” that Bowen had promoted. Something of that emerging direction can be glimpsed in the subsequent career of Alexander Camphor. After leaving Liberia, he became president of Central Alabama Institute, but he did not forget his dream of opening a mission in the African interior. In 1909 he published Missionary Story-Sketches and Folk-Lore from Africa in his ongoing effort to promote his idea. That idea is evoked through the fictionalized persona of Mr. Jackson, who comes to Liberia “with the intention of finding a suitable location in the interior for the establishment of an industrial mission for the aboriginal peoples of the country.” Jackson explains that his “plan is to begin with the life of the native, just where it is—in its simplicity, crudeness, barbarism, if you please—and build gradually on that.” The problem with missionary methods is, “They look upon their institutions and nationalism as a mere welter of barbarism, and without taking the time to learn what native institutions are and what native culture is, ignorantly proceed to destroy and not heed that which is deepest and most vital in native life and thought.” Instead, he argues, “we ought to build on those things which the natives have worked out through the long centuries, and gradually modify, alter, and enlarge upon them.” Camphor clearly hoped to contribute to a revaluation of African cultures.
That effort to cultivate a greater appreciation of Africa is most famously associated with Edward Wilmot Blyden, West Africa’s great cultural nationalist. Comparing Blyden’s African Life and Customs to Missionary Story-Sketches and Folk-Lore from Africa suggests how difficult it was for Camphor to escape the confines of missionary discourse. Camphor’s book still gives ample attention to the usual catalog of heathen abominations and superstitions. “Devil-doctors” abound, and Camphor makes much of the barbaric treatment of innocent people, notably those subjected to trials by ordeal using sasswood poison. Camphor’s Jackson describes a procession of shamans as “fantastically dressed” in ugly masks, performing “amusing and ludicrous antics,” and singing songs “more vociferous than musical.” He concludes, “Africa, in its superstition and degradation, can not save itself.” In the section of “story-sketches,” Camphor depicts missions mostly through accounts of young people redeemed by loving, self-sacrificing missionaries. The stories give the strong impression that mission “homes” existed in a world apart from native villages and that missionaries’ greatest service was simply to remove as many children as possible from the "welter of barbarism." A typical story featured Zoe-jar, a Golah child who had been rescued by the Liberian government in the aftermath of “a bloody war” and adopted by the missionary, Mrs. Brown. The story begins with Zoe-jar bidding “Good-bye, ma!” to Mrs. Brown, who is in tears, “for somehow she felt that Zoe-jar was slipping from her hands.” Zoe-jar is in fact being taken by her parents to visit “her grandmother and a host of other relations, who mourned her as dead.” It is hard to imagine a mission context that offered less hope for rooting Christianity in indigenous customs.
Yet Missionary Story-Sketches displays genuine originality in its section on African folklore. Only a brief introduction offers any commentary on the stories and parables that comprise this section, so it is not clear what impression Camphor intended to make by including them. On one level, they seem merely quaint, in the manner of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus tales. Nonetheless, the stories and parables do make it clear that West African culture teaches a basic moral code. Among their moral lessons are the importance of honesty and humility, the need for putting work ahead of play, and the value of contentment with one’s lot. Camphor may not have known quite what to do with this material, but he made an effort to find out. While administering Central Alabama Institute, he took summer and correspondence classes from the University of Chicago and, according to his mentor Bishop Hartzell, he was well on his way toward completing a PhD in Anthropology. Camphor died in 1919, still caught in the double-consciousness between the pretensions of the civilizing mission and a new appreciation of his African heritage.
It would be left to later generations to wrestle with the question of whether race pride could be best cultivated through demonstrating their ability to assimilate the dominant culture or through asserting difference. Rarely within the Methodist Episcopal Church did anyone go as far as one writer to the Southwestern Christian Advocate:
Instead of servile imitation of the whites, and desire to cross the racial lines, let there be a preference for the African type . . . The colored people must fashion and prefer their own society . . . The remedy is to obey the universal instinct for racial solidarity . . . Great artists, musicians, poets and orators are more than hinted possibilities.
Those possibilities would be more fully realized with the emergence of the Harlem Renaissance, but that cultural flowering would largely leave behind the kind of leadership that had been cultivated by the Methodist Episcopal Church through the Freedmen’s Aid Society and Gammon Theological Seminary.
For its part, Gammon Theological Seminary remained committed to working with white allies to nurture racial reconciliation. New allies gradually emerged during the twentieth century, such as the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen (FSC), which resurrected the hope that the South might yet produce an indigenous racial liberalism. In 1948, Gammon agreed to host an FSC students-in-industry summer project in which seven young men, six white and one black, lived communally at Gammon’s Bethlehem Center while seeking individual jobs in the city. The project failed on the horns of a dilemma highly evocative of the problems with uplift ideology. On the one hand, Bethlehem Center imposed moralistic strictures that bred isolation and tensions within the group, but on the other, when the FSC finally organized a party for the workers, it was broken up by the police and trumpeted in the newspapers with predictable canards about the threat of social equality to Southern womanhood. In a limited way, though, the project anticipated the interracial dynamics of the Freedom Summer in 1964 Mississippi.
The real value of racial uplift lay not in its capacity to change white people, but in the encouragement it gave to African Americans to look within themselves for their own sources of strength. In the absence of meaningful integration, the project of racial uplift fostered collective efforts to build communities that nurtured moral character, and women played a more prominent role. In August 1902, for example, Bowen and I. Garland Penn brought together an impressive array of leaders for the Negro Young People’s Christian and Educational Congress, which included a temperance convention led by Bowen’s wife, Ariel, a leader in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in Georgia. Turning their hopes toward the next generation, J. W. E. Bowen acknowledged that “these men and women chose to close their eyes to the outside difficulties and harassing impediments and inequalities in society, and turn their attention wholly to the inside shortcomings and moral disqualifications of the race.” He had concluded, “The constant agitation of wrongs dulls the public conscience on one hand and leads to pessimism on the other.” It was an admission indicative of the nadir in race relations at the turn of the century.
At its best, uplift promoted race pride and solidarity. As such, it could perhaps give rise to a species of black nationalism. The African Americans who chose to join the Methodist Episcopal Church were the most unlikely of black nationalists, committed as they were to remaining in a white-dominated institution. Yet to the extent that they took up the challenge of bringing uplift to Liberia, they became involved in the most ambitious black nationalist project of all. Ironically, in promoting the cause of missions to Africa, they fostered a closer look at their African heritage, raising the prospect that racial pride could be better cultivated by embracing that heritage rather than by replacing it. The cultural captivity of uplift ideology, which tied the fate of African Americans to their embrace of the pretensions of Western civilization, was subverted in part by the Methodist project of exporting uplift to Africa. The missionary origins of uplift ideology, by pushing separation while promising assimilation, proved to be a volatile mix.
 Mary Haven Thirkield, “Work in our Own Africa,” Zion’s Herald, January 30, 1901.
 The literature on the Reconstruction-era freedmen's education movement is quite extensive. Ronald E. Butchart, Schooling the Freed People: Teaching, Learning, and the Struggle for Black Freedom (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010); Ann Short Chirhart, Torches of Light: Georgia Teachers and the Coming of the Modern South (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005); Carol Faulkner, Women’s Radical Reconstruction: The Freedmen’s Aid Movement (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006); Elizabeth Jacoway, Yankee Missionaries in the South: The Penn School Experiment (Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 1980); Jacqueline Jones, Soldiers of Light and Love: Northern Teachers and Georgia Blacks, 1865–1873 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980); Richard C. Morris, Reading, ‘Riting, and Reconstruction: The Education of Freedmen in the South, 1861–1870 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976); Joe M. Richardson, Christian Reconstruction: The American Missionary Association and Southern Blacks, 1861–1890 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986); Willie Lee Rose, Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1964).
 “The Church and the Negro,” Christian Advocate, March 22, 1866.
 David Hempton, Methodism: Empire of the Spirit (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 201, 125.
 “Board and Committee Meetings, 1866–1896,” Freedmen’s Aid Society Records, 1866–1932 (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources). Walden also had solid antislavery credentials, having been involved in the Bleeding Kansas struggle before the war.
 Katharine L. Dvorak, An African-American Exodus: The Segregation of the Southern Churches (Brooklyn: Carlson, 1991); James M. McPherson, The Abolitionist Legacy: From Reconstruction to the NAACP (Princeton University Press, 1975), 149. H. K. Carroll, The Religious Forces of the United States: Enumerated, Classified, and Described on the Basis of the Government Census of 1890 (NY: Christian Literature Co., 1893), 400–403, gives the number of colored communicants in the M. E. Church as 246,249, compared to the African Methodist Episcopal Church at 452,725 and the A. M. E. Zion Church at 349,788. Yet the difference is not as great as the extent to which those denominations have overshadowed the M. E. Church in the historiography of black Christianity, and the black membership of the M. E. Church was far larger than that of the Colored M. E. Church (129,383), which had been created by the M. E. Church, South, after it became clear that its black members were going to leave. Additionally, the appeal of Methodism for freed slaves cannot be tied merely to their schools. Although the Freedmen’s Aid Society was a substantial operation, it was never as well funded as the better known and better documented work of the American Missionary Association. Still, the M. E. Church attracted a far greater black membership than the Congregationalist churches that supported the A. M. A. Joe M. Richardson, Christian Reconstruction: The American Missionary Association and Southern Blacks, 1861–1890 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986), 145–51.
 William Gravely, Gilbert Haven, Methodist Abolitionist: A Study in Race, Religion, and Reform, 1850–1880 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1973), 110–17; Reginald F. Hildebrand. The Times Were Strange and Stirring: Methodist Preachers and the Crisis of Emancipation (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), 85–88; James B. Bennett, Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans (Princeton University Press, 2005), 1–37.
 L. M. Hagood, “‘Assimilation and Not Separation,’” Southwestern Christian Advocate, January 31, 1884. Hagood, a prominent M. E. minister, took his title from a paper given by Bishop Jabez Campbell of the A. M. E. Church at the National Education Assembly held in Ocean Grove, NJ, in 1883. To Hagood, preaching assimilation while practicing separation was evidence of inconsistency in the A. M. E.
 James T. Newman, MD, “The Progress of Civilization,” Southwestern Christian Advocate, April 30, 1885.
 Michele Mitchell, Righteous Propagation: African Americans the Politics of Racial Destiny after Reconstruction (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 8–9.
 Paul W. Harris, Nothing but Christ: Rufus Anderson and the Ideology of Protestant Foreign Missions (Oxford University Press, 1999), esp. ch. 8.
 Dvorak, 97–99.
 “Educational Work on a Grand Scale by the M. E. Church,” Atlanta Constitution, March 24, 1889, 16; Twenty-second Annual Report of the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, for 1889 (Cincinnati: Western Methodist Book Concern Press, 1889), 4–5; James P. Brawley, Two Centuries of Methodist Concern: Bondage, Freedom and Education of Black People (New York: Vantage Press, 1974), 83–86.
 Bishop Willard F. Mallalieu, “Twenty-Third Anniversary of Emancipation Day in the Crescent City,” Southwestern Christian Advocate,January 7, 1886.
 “The Criterions of Judgment Which Every Race Must Abide,” Southwestern Christian Advocate, June 9, 1881.
 D. W. Hays, “A More Excellent Way,” Southwestern Christian Advocate, September 2, 1880.
 “Board and Committee Meetings, 1866-1896,” Freedmen’s Aid Society Records, 1866–1932 (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources).
 David Sehat, “The Civilizing Mission of Booker T. Washington,” Journal of Southern History 73 (May 2007): 323–62. Considerable attention has been given recently to Washington’s involvement with missions to Africa, but Sehat makes the key point that from the beginning Washington was involved in a civilizing mission, an ideological perspective he learned from his mentor, Samuel Chapman Armstrong. The global context of the freedom struggle is much more developed in the historiography of the civil rights movement.
 The mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to the Ottoman Armenians is an excellent example of work among “nominal Christians.” It became a showpiece of theirs in the years immediately preceding the Civil War. Harris, Nothing but Christ, 53–58, 160–61.
 Kevin K. Gaines, Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 3. The politics of racial uplift were (and remain) complicated and controversial. Much depends on the vantage from which one regards it. The leading challenge to Gaines’s interpretation has come from historians of African American women, cf. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880–1920 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993); Bettye Collier-Thomas, Jesus, Jobs, and Justice: African American Women and Religion (NY: Knopf, 2010); Michele Mitchell, Righteous Propagation: African Americans and the Politics of Racial Destiny after Reconstruction (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Adele Oltman, Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition: Black Christian Nationalism in the Age of Jim Crow (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008); Hazel Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the African-American Novelist (Oxford University Press, 1987).
Focusing on the role of women in promoting uplift has a number of important implications. Above all, it demolishes the association of uplift with patriarchy, demonstrating that the emphasis on home life created space for African American women to exercise strong and somewhat independent voices. Almost as significant, it shifts attention away from the outward focus on whites allies and places emphasis on women’s service to their own communities. Black women leaders looked inward toward raising up the institutions of a vibrant community life, promoting an ethic of self-reliance rather than dependence on whites.
 The reader will note that I am deliberately avoiding the label of “accommodationist” for uplift ideology. Edward L. Wheeler, Uplifting the Race: The Black Minister in the New South, 1865–1902 (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1986), xvi–xvii, questions the usefulness of the concept, with its “submissive tone,” preferring to emphasize “the rich interplay of accommodation and possibility” in the way uplift was promulgated by black ministers.
The critique of accommodationism has been advanced more recently by revisionist scholarship on Booker T. Washington, especially Robert J. Norrell, Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington (Cambridge, MA: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2009). Emphasizing the threats of racial violence that surrounded Washington, Norrell implies that accommodating to that reality should be respected as a strategy for making the best of a bad situation.
I would add that the history of assimilation by American immigrants offers ample proof that it is a dynamic process in no way incompatible with maintaining group pride.
 Dvorak, 97–99. For example, in New Orleans three black churches came over to the M. E. Church when Union forces occupied the city, and the missionary helped them secure titles to the properties which had been held by white trustees: “M. E. Church in the South. Beginnings in New Orleans” and “Work in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas,” typed MSS in Joseph C. Hartzell papers, General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church.
 Jay S. Stowell, Methodist Adventures in Negro Education (Methodist Book Concern, 1922), 35–42; J. W. Lee, “Rev. E. H. Gammon,” Atlanta Constitution, August 9, 1891, 5; Fifteenth Annual Report of the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, for 1882 (Cincinnati: Western Methodist Book Concern Press, 1882), 33–34; Twentieth Annual Report of the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, for 1887 (Cincinnati: Western Methodist Book Concern Press, 1887), 9–10; “A Great Donation,” Atlanta Constitution, December 31, 1892, 5.
The size of Gammon’s endowment was indeed exceptional. According to Brawley, Two Centuries of Methodist Concern, 87, its endowment in 1912 was more than four times that of all the other Freedmen’s Aid Society schools combined. Warren A. Candler, a bishop in the M. E. Church, South, opined that it ought to spur Southern whites to know “that the richest college in Georgia by several hundred thousands is for negroes . . .The entire plant of [Gammon Seminary and] Clark university is worth more than Emory, Mercer and the university at Athens combined.” That would be rectified by Candler’s brother Asa, the founder of Coca-Cola Company, and his many gifts to Emory University would result in their School of Theology being named for the two brothers. See W. A. Candler, “That Bequest to the Gammon School,” Atlanta Constitution, January 3, 1893, 8; Kathryn W. Kemp, “Asa Candler (1851–1929),” The New Georgia Encyclopedia,http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-633.
 “Prosperity of the Seminary,” Quarterly Bulletin (Atlanta: Gammon Theological Seminary, April 1905), 11.
 “Gammon’s Gifts By Which Negro Education Has Been Largely Aided in the South,” Atlanta Constitution, June 10, 1894, 2. On black Atlanta, see Allison Dorsey, To Build Our Lives Together: Community Formation in Black Atlanta, 1875–1906 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004); John Dittmer, Black Georgia in the Progressive Era, 1900–1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977), 12–13, 37–49, 146–58.
 “Manhood of the Ministry. Two Interesting Lectures by Rev. Dr. Vincent Yesterday,” Atlanta Constitution, November 29, 1887, 7; “Vincent’s Views. The Eminent Divine Treats Several Interesting Subjects,” Atlanta Constitution, November 30, 1887, 7.
 “To Serve the Lord. Commencement Exercises of the Gammon School,” Atlanta Constitution, June 7, 1888, 4.
 Atticus G. Haygood, “Address . . . at the Fourth Annual Opening of the Gammon School of Theology, Atlanta, Ga., October 27, 1886,” Nineteenth Annual Report of the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, for 1886 (Cincinnati: Western Methodist Book Concern Press, 1886), 50–56. Haygood’s pronouncement caught the attention of the editors of the Atlanta Constitution and was still being cited years later; cf. “A Gift of $180,” February 15, 1888. The Slater Fund was notable as an early benefactor of industrial education for African Americans.
 Haygood rose to prominence with the publication of Our Brother in Black: His Freedom and His Future (NY: Phillips & Hunt, 1881). One of his main purposes was to convince Northerners that Southern whites would be more inclined to assist in the education and uplift of blacks if Northerners abandoned radicalism and contented themselves with the slow progress that African Americans were making in the South.
 Haygood, “Address”; McPherson, The Abolitionist Legacy, 107–10. The rise of Jim Crow segregation did not begin in earnest until 1887; cf. Edward L. Ayers, The Promise of the New South: Life after Reconstruction (NY: Oxford University press, 1992), 137–45.
 “Rev. Wilbur P. Thirkield,” Atlanta Constitution, April 27, 1889, 5; Wilbur P. Thirkield, “The Racial Issue,” Atlanta Constitution, March 1, 1890, 3; “Southern Barbarism,” Atlanta Constitution, March 1, 1890, 4; “Mr. Thirkield Writes a Letter,” Atlanta Constitution, March 6, 1890, 4.
 Thirkield, “The Racial Issue.”
 The best general histories of African-American involvement in missions to Africa remain Sylvia M. Jacobs, ed., Black Americans and the Missionary Movement in Africa (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982) and Walter L. Williams, Black Americans and the Evangelization of Africa, 1877–1900 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982).
 Edward L. Park, “Rev. William Fletcher Stewart, A.M.: A Memorial Address,” Quarterly Bulletin (Atlanta: Gammon Theological Seminary, 1901), 9–23; Stewart Missionary Foundation for Africa in Gammon Theological Seminary: Purpose, History, Work, Plan, Specimen Productions(Atlanta: Gammon Theological Seminary, 1895), 3–12. See also Paul Harris, “Racial Identity and the Civilizing Mission: Double-Consciousness at the 1895 Congress on Africa,” Religion and American Culture (Summer 2008): 145–76.
 J. W. E. Bowen, ed., Africa and the American Negro: Addresses and Proceedings of the Congress on Africa (Atlanta: Gammon Theological Seminary, 1896), 227.
 James M. Washington, “John Wesley Edward Bowen, Sr.: The Public Theology of an African-American Theological Educator, 1887–1915,” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 47 (1993): 103–5; J. R. Van Pelt, “John Wesley Edward Bowen,” Journal of Negro History 19 (April 1934): 217–19.
 E. L. Parks, “History of the First Fifteen Years of Gammon Theological Seminary, Atlanta,” Quarterly Bulletin (Atlanta: Gammon Theological Seminary, June 1898), 20; Brawley, Two Centuries of Methodist Concern, 325, 330–332. The politics of Bowen’s election to the presidency do raise a question. According to Brawley, his predecessor, L. G. Adkinson, was elected by the seminary’s Board of Trustees, but after Adkinson’s death, the trustees chose instead to submit a list of nominees to the Board of Managers of the Freedmen’s Aid Society, who in turn elected Bowen. Why the trustees were unable to agree on a candidate, and whether that had anything to do with race, is unclear.
 J. W. E. Bowen, “An Appeal to the King,” Christian Advocate, November 14, 1895. Also published in Atlanta Constitution, October 22, 1895, 4.
 Bowen, “An Appeal to the King.” W. E. B. DuBois claimed Bowen as an ally against Washington in The Souls of Black Folk (1903; repr., NY & Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1997), 69. See also Dittmer, Black Georgia in the Progressive Era, 19, 166, 168.
 Vote tallies were reported in the Journal of the General Conference, published by Eaton & Mains, for each of those meetings. See also Van Pelt, 220; L. M. Hagood, The Colored Man in the Methodist Church (1890; repr., Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971), 167–91; J. W. E. Bowen, An Appeal for Negro Bishops, But No Separation (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1912), 55–56.
 This issue is critiqued by John H. Reed, who was himself a missionary-educator in Liberia, in Racial Adjustments in the Methodist Episcopal Church (NY: Neale Publishing Co., 1914), 143–45.
 Bennett, Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans, 21–26, 37; J. C. Hartzell, “A Semi-Centennial Address” (1920), in Hartzell papers, General Commission on Archives and History, United Methodist Church (hereafter GCAH); Wade Crawford Barclay, History of Methodist Missions, vol. 3: Widening Horizons, 1845–1895 (NY: Board of Missions of the Methodist Church, 1957), 898–930.
 Eunjin Park, “White” Americans in “Black” Africa: Black and White American Methodist Missionaries in Liberia, 1820–1875 (NY: Routledge, 2001), 33, 47–51, 115–32.
 Hollis R. Lynch, Edward Wilmot Blyden: Pan-Negro Patriot, 1832–1912 (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), 38–42, 147–61; Wilson Jeremiah Moses, Alexander Crummell: A Study of Civilization and Discontent (NY: Oxford University Press, 1989), 146–95.
 Stephen Ward Angell, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and African-American Religion in the South (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992), 215–24; Henry McNeal Turner, African Letters (Nashville, TN: Publishing House A. M. E. Sunday School Union, 1893).
 R. S. Lovingood, “Should the Negro Go to Africa?” Southwestern Christian Advocate, October 12, 1893).
 Harris, “Racial Identity and the Civilizing Mission,” 151–52.
 Hartzell to Thirkield, New York, 19 October 1896, in Hartzell papers, GCAH.
 “A Hymn of Sympathy and Prayer for Africa,” Quarterly Bulletin (February 1895), 1.
 Jay S. Stowell, “From the Cabin Up, The Story of Alexander Priestly Camphor” (1922), unidentified magazine clipping in Hartzell papers, GCAH. Dillard University, into which the University of New Orleans later merged, honors Camphor to this day with a hall named after him.
 Stowell, “From the Cabin Up”; “Bishop Mallalieu Dead,” Boston Evening Transcript, August 2, 1911.
 Stowell, “From the Cabin Up”; “Stewart Missionary Foundation for Africa in Gammon Theological Seminary: Purpose, History, Work, Plan, Specimen Productions” (Atlanta: Gammon Theological Seminary, 1895), 8–11, 17.
 J. H. Reed, “Providential Movement in Racial and National Life,” Southwestern Christian Advocate, January 1, 1905.
 Yekutiel Gershoni, Black Colonialism: The Americo-Liberian Scramble for the Hinterland (Boulder: Westview Press, 1985), 34–46; “Liberia Saved from German Intrigue,” MS in Hartzell papers, GCAH; Mildred C. Fierce, The Pan-African Idea in the United States, 1900–1919: African-American Interest in Africa and Interaction with West Africa (NY: Garland, 1993), 150–60; Sylvia M. Jacobs, The African Nexus: Black American Perspectives on the European Partitioning of Africa, 1880–1920 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981), 220–27.
 S. Ford Dennis to C. C. McCabe, Monrovia, 5 August 1895, Missionary Correspondence, 1846–1912, GCAH.
 M. M. Dingman to C. C. McCabe, New York, 1893, Missionary Correspondence, 1846–1912, GCAH.
 A. P. Camphor to Hartzell, Monrovia, 30 March 1897, Hartzell papers, GCAH.
 Tom W. Shick, Behold the Promised Land: A History of Afro-American Settler Society in Nineteenth-Century Liberia (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), 43–59; Claude A. Clegg III, The Price of Liberty: African Americans and the Making of Liberia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 83–110, 238–42, 266–67; Marie Tyler-McGraw, An African Republic: Black and White Virginians in the Making of Liberia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 151–53; Gershoni, 16–22, 29–31, 74–78, 97–103; Raymond Leslie Buell, Liberia: A Century of Survival, 1847–1947, African Handbooks 7 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, The University Museum, 1947), 7–16.
 Camphor to A. B. Leonard, Monrovia, 11 September 1900; Cincinnati, 15 July 1901; Monrovia, 29 October 1903, Missionary Correspondence, 1846–1912, GCAH.
 Camphor to Leonard, East Orange, NJ, 31 August 1904, Missionary Correspondence, 1846–1912, GCAH.
 Camphor to Leonard, Monrovia, 29 June 1905; “Extract from the Records in case W. F. Hawkins, Plaintiff vs. A. P. Camphor,” both in Missionary Correspondence, 1846–1912, GCAH.
 Camphor to Leonard, Monrovia, 16 November 1905, Missionary Correspondence, 1846–1912, GCAH.
Camphor to Leonard, Monrovia, 2 March 1906, Missionary Correspondence, 1846–1912, GCAH.
 Ernest Lyon to Robert Bacon, Asst. Sec. of State, Washington, DC, American Consulate-General, Monrovia, 15 May 1906.
 John H. Reed, “Bishop Alexander Priestley Camphor—An Appreciation,” Mission Biographical File Series, GCAH.
 Stowell, “From the Cabin Up”; J. H. Reed to Leonard, Monrovia, 29 September 1906; “About Us,” The College of West Africa Alumni Association, USA, https://www.cwaaausa.org/about-us.
 John Dittmer, Black Georgia in the Progressive Era, 1900–1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977), 166, 127–28; Washington, “John Wesley Edward Bowen, Sr.,” 127.
 “Worshiping at an Unholy Shrine,” Southwestern Christian Advocate, February 13, 1896; R. L. Dickerson, “Give the Negro a Chance,” Southwestern Christian Advocate, May 18, 1893.
 W. P. Thirkield, “Freedmen's Ad and Southern Education Society,” Zion's Herald, January 27, 1904, 108.
 L. M. Hagood, “Doctor or Preacher?” Southwestern Christian Advocate, October 12, 1905.
 W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903; repr., Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1997), 38.
 Alexander P. Camphor, Missionary Story-Sketches and Folk-Lore from Africa (Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham; New York: Eaton and Mains, 1909), 21, 27–29.
 Missionary Story-Sketches, 43–44, 77, 149–56.
 The collecting of African-American folklore has been the subject of some controversy, namely whether the purpose was merely illustrative of the primitive mind or a source of race pride. See Lee D. Baker, “Research, Reform, and Racial Uplift: The Mission of the Hampton Folk-Lore Society, 1893–1899,” in Excluded Ancestors, Inventible Traditions: Essays Toward a More Inclusive History of Anthropology, ed. Richard Handler (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000), 57.
 Missionary Story-Sketches, 255–258.
 J. C. Hartzell, “Alexander Priestly Camphor,” typescript MS in Joseph C. Hartzell papers, GCAH.
 Howard Henderson, “The Duty of the Colored People to Themselves,” Southwestern Christian Advocate, June 21, 1896.
 John A. Salmond, “The Fellowship of Southern Churchmen and Interracial Change in the South,” North Carolina Historical Review, 69 (April 1992): 189–90.
 J. W. E. Bowen, “The Negro Christian Congress,” Christian Advocate, August 28, 1902. Amanda Smith and Nannie Burroughs were among the other prominent women involved.