NRAAC's National Chair
Dr. Jean Howard-Hill
National Republican African American Caucus [NRAAC] Blog
The National Republican African American Caucus Has Its
Say!: 18 Day Political Revival
Day 17: What an organization like the National Republican African American Caucus with a 76% clergy membership could offer the Republican Party, if they had the good sense to be more welcoming and less concerned with gate keeping and fear of changing the complexion of the party!
The American black preacher and the black church throughout history always have played a very integral part in the lives of those within the African American community. In no other race of people, have we seen this kind of influence. This relationship was forged during slavery and has continued to remain intact.
During slavery the only time slaves were allowed some degree of freedom was in worship services. Sometimes there were slave churches, and at other times slaves were made to worship in the loft of white churches or held services after whites held theirs.
Often white preachers distorted passages of scripture used to indoctrinate slaves to accept their forced lot of being enslaved. Jenny Proctor, William W. Brown and West Turner tell of those experiences.
They wasn't no church for the slaves, but we goes to the white folks' arbor on Sunday evening, and a white man he gits up there to preach to the niggers. He say, "Now I takes my text, which is, Nigger obey your master and your mistress, 'cause what you git from them here in this world am all you ever going to git, 'cause you just like the hogs and the other animals - when you dies you ain't no more, after you been throwed in that hole." I guess we believed that for a while 'cause we didn't have no way finding out different. We didn't see no Bibles.
Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery, B. A. Botkin, ed.
...in Missouri, and as far as I have knowledge of slavery in the other states, the religious teachings consists of teaching the slaves that he must never strike a white man; that God made him for a slave; and that, when whipped, he must not find fault - for the Bible says, "He that knoweth his master's will and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes!" And slaveholders find such religion very profitable to them.
William W. Brown
Narrative of William W. Brown
This the way it go: Be nice to massa and missus; don't be mean; be obedient, and work hard. That was all the Sunday school lesson they taught us.
The Negro in Virginia
It wasn't until slaves learned to read that they found there was a different gospel in the Bible - one which spoke of a man named Moses, who God sent to Egypt to let God's people go. Of course the white master did not know this was being preached, so it had to be coded out in messages and in songs we now call Negro Spirituals. When slaves sung, "Still Away to Jesus", or the slave preacher gave a sermon on going home to live with King Jesus, they really meant it was time to run away with hopes of reaching the North. When another slave had news that the master was the wiser, they sung, "King Jesus is a Listening".
The black preacher was seen as a messenger of God who had the real truth of what the Bible said. There are stories of slave preachers being divinely taught how to read, as in the case of Rev. Jea. Therefore, they were greatly revered.
[Although it makes this blog even more lengthy, I thought it prudent that I share at least a portion of Rev. Jea's story from Chapter 10 of my book, Black Eyes Shut - White Lips Sealed, entitled, Black Bearers of the Gospel Bound By Chains of Prejudice.]
My master's sons also endeavoured to convince me, by their reading in the behalf of their father; but I could not comprehend their dark sayings, for it surprised me much, how they could take that blessed book into their hands, and to be so superstitious as to want to make me believe that the book did talk with them; so that every opportunity when they were out of the way, I took the book, and held it up to my ears, to try whether the book would talk with me or not, but it proved to be all in vain, for I could not hear it speak one word, which caused me to grieve and lament, that after God had done so much for me as he had in pardoning my sins, and blotting out my iniquities and transgressions, and making me a new creature, the book would not talk with me; but the Spirit of the Lord brought this passage of Scripture to my mind, where Jesus Christ says, "Whatever ye shall ask the Father in my name, ye shall receive. Ask in faith nothing doubting: for according unto your faith it shall be unto you. For unto him that believeth, all things are possible." Then I began to ask God in faithful and fervent prayer, as the Spirit of the Lord gave me utterance, begging earnestly of the Lord to give me the knowledge of his word, that I might be enabled to understand it in its pure light, and be able to speak it in the Dutch and English languages, that I might convince my master that he and his sons had not spoken to me as they ought, when I was their slave.
Thus I wrestled with God by faithful and fervent prayer, for five or six weeks, like Jacob of old, Gen. xxxii. 24. Hosea xii. 4. My master and mistress, and all people, laughed me to scorn, for being such a fool, to think that God would hear my prayer and grant unto me my request. But I gave God no rest day nor night, and I was so earnest, that I can truly say, I shed as many tears for this blessing, as I did when I was begging God to grant me the pardon and forgiveness of my sins. During the time I was pouring out my supplications and prayers unto the Lord, my hands were employed, labouring for the bread that perisheth, and my heart within me still famishing for the word of God; as spoken of in the Scriptures, "There shall be a famine in the land; not a famine of bread, nor of water, but of the word of God." And thus blessed be the Lord, that he sent a famine into my heart, and caused me to call upon him by his Spirit's assistance, in the time of my trouble.
The Lord heard my groans and cries at the end of six weeks, and sent the blessed angel of the covenant to my heart and soul, to release me from all my distress and troubles, and delivered me from all mine enemies, which were ready to destroy me; thus the Lord was pleased in his in finite mercy, to send an angel, in a vision, in shining raiment, and his countenance shining as the sun, with a large bible in his hands, and brought it unto me, and said, "I am come to bless thee, and to grant thee thy request," as you read in the Scriptures. Thus my eyes were opened at the end of six weeks, while I was praying, in the place where I slept; although the place was as dark as a dungeon, I awoke, as the Scripture saith, and found it illuminated with the light of the glory of God, and the angel standing by me, with the large book open, which was the Holy Bible, and said unto me, "Thou hast desired to read and understand this book, and to speak the language of it both in English and in Dutch; I will therefore teach thee, and now read;" and then he taught me to read the first chapter of the gospel according to St. John; and when I had read the whole chapter, the angel and the book were both gone in the twinkling of an eye, which astonished me very much, for the place was dark immediately; being about four o'clock in the morning in the winter season. After my astonishment had a little subsided, I began to think whether it was a fact that an angel had taught me to read, or only a dream; for I was in such a strait, like Peter was in the prison, when the angel smote him on the side, and said unto Peter, "Arise, Peter, and take thy garment, and spread it around thee, and follow me." And Peter knew not whether it was a dream or not; and when the angel touched him the second time, Peter arose, took his garment, folded it around him, and followed the angel, and the gates opened unto him of their own accord. So it was with me when the room was darkened again, that I wondered within myself whether I could read or not, but the Spirit of the Lord convinced me that I could; I then went out of the house to a secret place, and there rendered thanksgivings and praises unto God's holy name, for his goodness in showing me to read his holy word, to understand it, and to speak it, both in the English and Dutch languages.
I tarried at a distance from the house, blessing and praising God, until the dawning of the day, and by that time the rest of the slaves were called to their labour; they were all very much surprised to see me there so early in the morning, rejoicing as if I had found a pearl of great price, for they used to see me very sad and grieved on other mornings, but now rejoicing, and they asked me what was the reason of my rejoicing more now than at other times, but I answered I would not tell them. After I had finished my day's work I went to the minister's house, and told him that I could read, but he doubted greatly of it, and said unto me, "How is it possible that you can read? For when you were a slave your master would not suffer any one, whatever, to come near you to teach you, nor any of the slaves, to read; and it is not long since you had your liberty, not long enough to learn to read." But I told him, that the Lord had learnt me to read last night. He said it was impossible. I said, "Nothing is impossible with God, for all things are possible with him; but the thing impossible with man is possible with God: for he doth with the host of heaven, and with the inhabitants of the earth, as he pleaseth, and there is none that can with stay his hand, nor dare to say what dost thou? And so did the Lord with me as it pleased him, in shewing me to read his word, and to speak it, and if you have a large bible, as the Lord showed me last night, I can read it." But he said, "No, it is not possible that you can read." This grieved me greatly, which caused me to cry. His wife then spoke in my behalf, and said unto him, "You have a large bible, fetch it, and let him try and see whether he can read it or not, and you will then be convinced." The minister then brought the bible to me, in order that I should read; and as he opened the bible for me to read, it appeared unto me, that a person said, "That is the place, read it." Which was the first chapter of the gospel of St. John, the same the Lord had taught me to read. So I read to the minister; and he said to me, "You read very well and very distinct;" and asked me who had learnt me. I said the Lord had learnt me last night. He said that it was impossible; but, if it were so, he should find it out. On saying this he went and got other books, to see whether I could read them; I tried, but could not. He then brought a spelling book, to see if I could spell; but he found to his great astonishment, that I could not. This convinced him and his wife that it was the Lord's work, and it was marvellous in their eyes.
This caused them to spread a rumour all over the city of New York, saying, that the Lord had worked great miracles on a poor black man. The people flocked from all parts to know whether it was true or not; and some of them took me before the magistrates, and had me examined concerning the rumour that was spread abroad, to prevent me, if possible, from saying the Lord had taught me to read in one night, in about fifteen minutes; for they were afraid that I should teach, the other slaves to call upon the name of the Lord, as I did aforetime, and that they should come to the knowledge of the truth.
The magistrates examined me strictly, to see if I could read, as the report stated; they brought a bible for me to read in, and I read unto them the same chapter the Lord had taught me, as before-mentioned, and they said I read very well and very distinct, and asked me who had taught me to read. I still replied, that the Lord had taught me. They said that it was impossible; but brought forth spelling and other books, to see if I could read them, or whether I could spell, but they found to their great surprise, that I could not read other books, neither could I spell a word; then they said, it was the work of the Lord, and a very great miracle indeed; whilst others exclaimed and said that it was not right that I should have my liberty.
The magistrates said that it was right and just that I should have my liberty, for they believed that I was of God, for they were persuaded that no man could read in such a manner, unless he was taught of God.
From that hour, in which the Lord taught me to read, until the present, I have not been able to read in any book, nor any reading whatever, but such as contain the word of God.
Also the black preacher was the only one of whom the master allowed to congregate slaves. When they were in the presence of the master, they adhered to the same script as the white preachers of "obey your master". However, when they won the confidence of the master to be left alone, they preached of Moses, the deliverer message - one which God broke fetters and set them free! Where the black preacher was forbidden to gather slaves for worship, often they stole away and worshiped in secret without the master being the wiser.
In dese meetin's ole Jim Bennett, de preacher, didn't know a letter in a book, but he sho' could preach. Dar wasn't no Bible in dem days 'cept what de white folks had, and' dey wan't qwine let no slave see hit even if he could read.
Old Jim would keep a knot of lightwood handy, an' he'd stick hit close to de fire to draw de pitch out it. When de patrollers come to de door 'twas already hot, you see. Preacher would run to de fireplace, git him a light an' take dat torch an' wave hit back an' fo'th so dat de pitch an' fire would be flyin' ev'y which a way in dese patterollers' faces. Out de doors de slaves would go; dar was a mighty scramble an' scuffle in de dark, an' de slaves would scatter in all directions. You see, patterollers was mostly atter de preacher 'cause he was de leader o' de meetin'. Was a terrible lashin' comin' to him dat got cught.
But there was ways of beating the patterollers. De best way was to head 'em off. I 'member once when we was gonna have a meetin' down in de woods near de river. Well, dey made me de lookout boy, an' wne de paddyrollers come down de lane past de church - you see dey was 'sepctin dat de niggers gonna hold a meetin' dat night - well, sir, dey tell me to step out f'm de woods an' let 'em see me. Well, I does, an' de paddyrollers datr was on horse back came a chasin' arter me, jus' a-gallopin' down de lane to beat de band. Well I was jus' ahead of 'em, an' when they got almost up wid me I jus' ducked into de woods. Course de paddyrollers couldn't stop so quick an' kep' on 'round de ben', an' den dere came a-screamin' an' cryin' dat make you think dat hell done bust loose. Dem old paddyrollers done ride plumb into a great line of grape vines tripped up de horses an' throwned de ole paddyrollers off in de bushes. An' some done landed mighty hard, cause dey was a-limpin' roun' an' cussin' an' callin' fo' de slaves to come an' help dem, but dem slaves got plenty o' sense. Dey lay in de bushes an' hole dere sides a-laughin' but ain't none o' 'em gonna risk bein' seen. All right dat night, but in de mornin' he done forgot all 'bout how you help him. All he know is dat you was out. So after ole paddyrollers go on limpin' back to de town, we go on to de woods an' hold ourmeetin'.
Arter dat, ole paddyroller got wise an' used to tie dey horses an' come creepin' thew de woods on foot, tell dey fin' whar dis meetin' was gwine on. Den day would rush in an' start whippin' an' beatin' de slaves unmerciful. All dis was done to keep you f'om servin' God an' do you know some o' dem devils was mean an' sinful 'nough to say, "If I ketch you here servin' God, I'll beat you. You ain't got no time to serve God. We bought you to serve us."
The Negro in Virginia
The one thing that slavery could not do - it could not separate the slave from his or her relationship with God. Even a good beating could not do it!
We also see the influence the black preacher and the black church have had on the black community during the Civil Rights Movement. It was black preachers who led the protests and the black church was the central location for meetings to think through, offer prayer and plan protests. Although that influence may not be as necessary in the 21st Century, without a doubt, black preachers, especially within certain Protestant denominations, still have considerable influence and the church remains the core of black culture.
In the black community, very seldom does anyone speak against a black preacher. It takes a lot for that to be done. This is why a Jesse Jackson or an Al Sharpton , so long as they have a "Rev," in front of their names are not likely to be criticized, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. Unless it is done by a fellow clergy, it almost never happens.
Congregations also have great respect for the opinions of their spiritual leadership. Whether a preacher says who to vote for from the pulpit or not, a church's membership more than likely sees his or her decision as being Godly orchestrated and will follow that lead.
Knowing all of this, the black preacher and the black church is a ripe vineyard for the GOP to bring its message. This is what leads us to believe that the Republican Party does not truly want an integrated party. Because if it did, an organization such as the National Republican African American Caucus with 76 percent of its membership being clergy, would not only be welcomed, but the Party would be thrilled to have us!
Perhaps a lesson in history might be in order for the GOP to get it! ...Then again, if the lessons of history have shown the courage of the black preacher to stand up against racism, and testifies of the strength of the bond that blacks had with God, which resulted in their miraculous endurance and deliverance, maybe this is all the more reason why some within the GOP might steer clear of this kind of inclusion. Could it be a fear of spiritual vs. political power that can indeed bring down political strongholds?
This is an interesting way of viewing this, which up until now, even I had not considered.
To reach the NRAAC national chair:
423-702-5622 NRAAC office
She has taught full time and as an adjunct, American Government, State and Local Government, and International Politics and Culture of Nonwestern Countries at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, and was voted 2006 Outstanding Professor of the year. Additionally, from 1976 to 1979, she designed and directed the "Democracy In Action" Program, which was a civics program taught in the local school systems. Howard-Hill also is a local political commentator and holds a law degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville College of Law. She also is ordained clergy and heads The Healing Place Ministries International, overseeing 47 ministries throughout Africa.
She also is a TN third district congressional candidate. If elected, she would be the first African American Republican and female to be elected from the third district. Her campaign website can be found at: http://ladyjforcongress.com and http://
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