Churches in the Antebellum South Integrated
In antebellum days Southern churches served both white and black congregations, but the postwar witnessed the rise of separate black churches. The infamous Union League and Loyal Leagues of the North can be largely blamed for this as they fomented racial hatred in the blacks against Southern whites for political purposes. The dominance of the Northern Republican party in the South depended upon the freedmen voting for the right candidates to keep the white population politically powerless.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Churches in the Antebellum South Integrated:
“As Seen By a Northern Editor: Dr. Buckley, editor of the New York Christian Advocate, referring to the fact that the Seventh Day Adventists in Washington City have recently established two distinct churches for the two races, with white and colored pastors, says:
“This seems to have been the case everywhere slavery of one race has existed, except where a very small number of either race attended with a large number of the other.
In the cities of the South before the war the whites and blacks occupied the same church building, and in many instances worshipped together. Those servants who were not detained by household duties in the morning of the Sabbath occupied the capacious side galleries, the white choir occupied the front. The colored people worshipped in the body of the church in the afternoon. The slave heard the gospel from the same lips as his master, and was much better instructed in Bible truth and Bible ethics than, as a rule, the freedman is now.
The writer had charge of a church in the far South in antebellum times in which there was a large colored membership in connection with the white. On Sabbath morning there was a good representation of the blacks in the side galleries. Once a month we administered the Communion to the colored members and baptized their children. We married a number of them, and any failure to observe the requirements of matrimony was made the subject of discipline. Every two weeks we met their leaders, who reported any cases of moral delinquency or any departures from Christian consistency among those under their special charge.
These colored members contributed several hundred dollars annually to the support of the church. They did it without solicitation, and would have considered themselves insulted had they not been allowed to do it. Many of them had the opportunity weekly to make a little money for themselves, and as they were at no personal or household expense it was clear gain, and they dispensed it freely.
A number of them could read and write. The law, indeed, prohibited instruction in these rudimentary branches, but it was largely a dead letter. In many homes the mistress or older children taught the servants. The writer has in his possession several letters received from colored members of his charge after he left, which he prizes among the most precious souvenirs of his ministry.”
(North America and Africa, Their Past, Present and Future, John F. Foard, Foard Publishers, 1904, pp. 43-44)