by Tommy Davis (email@example.com)
Traditional historians agree that the predominantly black church in America should remind itself of the horrors of slavery. The atrocities experienced at the hands of Southern Democrats instigated a spiritual revolution among black Christians and brought about a passionate black church which recognized that God cared for them.
Contemporaries speculate why many black American Christians annually observe what is termed “Watch Night” services, a yearly religious observation to bring in the New Year. The Watch Night tradition dates back to 1862 when Republican President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that took effect on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of the bloody civil war. The proclamation declared that “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
The Emancipation Proclamation was zealously anticipated. Historians pointed out that many black Americans gathered in groups around clocks or watches eagerly awaiting the arrival of midnight on December 31, 1862 because the Proclamation was to take effect on the first moment of January 1, 1863.[i]
Despite its extensive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was restricted in many ways. It pertained only to states that had withdrawn from the Union, leaving slavery unaffected in the loyal border states. It also expressly relieved parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not instantaneously free a single slave, it fundamentally transformed the atmosphere of the war. The slaves now recognized that they had no obligation to obey slaveholders. Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist who escaped slavery in Maryland, proclaimed:
“About twelve o’clock, seeing there was no disposition to retire from the hall, which must be vacated, my friend Grimes…rose and moved that the meeting adjourn to the Twelfth Baptist Church, of which he was pastor, and soon the church was packed from doors to pulpit, and this meeting did not break up till near the dawn of day. It was one of the most affecting and thrilling occasions I ever witnessed, and a worthy celebration of the first step on the part of the nation in its departure from the thralldom of the ages.”[ii]
Mr. Douglass and others had gathered at the Twelfth Baptist Church to continue enjoying the occasion of the new executive order.
After January 1, 1863, every progress of federal troops expanded the domain of liberty. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators.
From the first days of the Civil War, slaves had acted to secure their own liberty. The Emancipation Proclamation confirmed their insistence that the war for the Union must become a war for freedom. As Frederick Douglass confirmed during the Watch Night service: “There was evidently no disposition on the part of this meeting to criticize the proclamation; nor was there with any one at first. At the moment, we saw only its anti-slavery side.”[iii] It added moral force to the Union cause and strengthened the Union both militarily and politically. Again, Douglass noted that the Proclamation was “confined within certain geographical and military lines.”[iv] As a signpost along the road to slavery’s final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom. It was the forerunner of the Republicans’ victory in passing the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865—banning slavery in ALL America.
Thus, during Watch Night, black Americans should be reminded of this glorious event as observed by the pioneers of freedom from both corporal and spiritual bondage. The Lord saw fit to answer the prayers of millions of slaves and those free persons who valued freedom for every one of their fellow men.
Race seems to be the controlling criterion in contemporary dialogue when it comes to evaluating relationships among black and white Americans. Nothing is more harmful to the brainpower of black people than the elevation of the myth that one cannot thrive due to racism. Undeniably, racism is a reality, but it has never been sufficient enough to prevent black Americans from gaining an economic advantage in a struggle to better ourselves.
In 1834, a group of Connecticut businessmen declared that the “white man cannot labor upon equal terms with the negro….the black can afford to offer his services at lower prices than the white man.” Fugitive slaves had escaped there and opened businesses. When slavery ended in 1865, blacks carried their work ethic into the free market. Their white counterparts legislatively enacted discriminatory laws in an effort to stifle the competition from blacks.
Many 19th century black Americans wanted nothing more than the freedom to be productive. A shared intellectual currency at the time motivated blacks to perform very well without viewing race as a disability. In the 1870s, blacks occupied positions as lieutenant governor, mayor, sheriff, magistrates, treasurer, superintendent of education in five states including Republican Speakers of the House in Mississippi and South Carolina.
One day after Congress approved the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery, Republican Senator Charles Sumner introduced a motion that made John Rock the first black attorney to be admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was already an American teacher, doctor, dentist, and abolitionist. John Rock was also one of the first black Americans to earn a medical degree (1852).
It’s how we respond to experiences and learning that makes the difference. In 1910, 71 percent of blacks over nine years of age were employed or operated family businesses. This heightened racial tensions that prompted whites to burn down black business and suppress the black vote in an effort to gain economic ground.
We needed the government to protect our civil liberties rather than provide wealth. When the 1964 Civil Rights Act came up for argument and a vote, Senator Olin Johnston, a Democrat from South Carolina said: “This is indeed the blackest day in the U.S. Senate since 1875, when Congress passed a civil rights bill similar to this one. It was 89 years ago that the [Republican] Congress passed the nefarious Reconstruction era civil rights laws, identical with what we are now discussing….” It was Republican William McCullough who stated in supporting the bill: “I believe in the right of each individual to have his constitutional rights guaranteed. On the other hand, he must always be prepared to shoulder the obligations and assume the burdens of citizenship….”
Rev. Tommy Davis is a full time chaplain in upstate New York
by Providence Crowder
Author Donald W. Dayton produced a remarkable historical summary of America’s evangelical legacy in his work entitled, “Discovering an Evangelical Heritage.” This book provides compelling evidence that confirms “the Christian witness” has a powerful impact upon society when the gospel is put into action. Unlike contemporary evangelicalism, which by and large evades questions of social responsibility, Dayton sets out to prove that the evangelical heritage left by nineteenth century evangelicals such as Catherine Booth and Charles G. Finney demonstrated that the gospel and social responsibility were once intimately integrated. He provides thrilling accounts of how the nineteenth century evangelical “abolitionists” understood that to right societal wrongs, social injustice demanded a radical and Christian response. The abolitionist movement was chiefly political and religious; abolitionists believed that slavery was a sin. Through moral suasion, they set out to change laws in an effort to permanently abolish it. (more…)
Before the 2008 election a white pastor friend of mine asked to meet with me. He wanted my advice and counsel on how to deal with the discussions within his congregation regarding the election and what I thought would happen as a result of the election. Some of his members supported Obama and others supported McCain.
After a healthy discussion on the Bible and Politics, I predicted that Obama would win in part because Americans were tired of the war in Iraq and because Obama was well educated, good looking, very articulate, America’s first black candidate and because many whites wanted to prove that they were not prejudice – but his presidency (from a racial standpoint) will divide us, not unite us. Why? Because there will be those in the media and in his camp who will not hesitate to play the race card when whites disagreed with his policies. Well, we all know my first prediction came true, he is the President, but sadly, we see the second one coming true as well. Those who disagree with his policies are being called racist. (more…)
Normally, when it comes to government programs that attempt to address ethnic bigotry, I am a total critic. Policies that include contemporary affirmative action actually turned out to encourage discrimination rather than discourage unfairness when it comes to certain groups of people.
The original affirmative action ruled out race as a factor. Contemporary affirmative action leads to the underdevelopment of those who did not really obtain success through candid competition; but rather through policies that reward failure and penalize someone else’s achievement.
As a Republican, I understand that laws must be initiated that would prevent citizens from being deprived of their human and citizenship rights by other citizens. In January of 1865, Republican President Lincoln prompted Congress to enact the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery. The Civil War ended that same year when General Lee surrendered on April 9 with Lincoln being assassinated 6 days later. (more…)
You may have heard some people refer to certain black Americans as “Uncle Tom.” This term is widely used as derisive language to discredit the accomplishments of successful black Americans who probably overcame poverty through hard work. What many black Americans are unaware of is the fact that “Uncle Tom” was an actual hero. This fictional character helped slaves escape the harsh plantations according to the novel titled “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” You may have also heard people say: “Republicans don’t like black people.”
Equally troubling is the fact that many people use the phrase “Uncle Tom” in a negative light having never read the book. In the same way, black Americans are unaware of the rich history of the Republican Party. They only pass on negative information having never researched the accounts of the past. (more…)