Thursday, April 6, 2023

Black History Matters: Resources for White Churches (3)

Ideas for reflection, discussion, and study

++An excerpt from a letter from the freedman, Jourdan Anderson to his former enslaver, Col. P.H. Anderson, August 7, 1865 A Letter from Jourdan Anderson: A Freedman writes His Former Master, Facing Ourselves and History, May 12, 2020.
I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane, and Grundy, go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die, if it come to that, than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.
++  The Church as Enslaver
We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the Gospel, and babies sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! [  ] The slave auctioner's bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand-in-hand. Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, 1845

++Healing from the Three-Fold Wound 

Our healing is from the three- fold wound of sexism, class-ism, and racism. Julian's own vision tells the story of our original wounding and how God looks on us with pity, not blame. The choice of these three particular wounds is effectively argued, using not only the statistics of sexual abuse (1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are survivors of childhood sexual abuse), but also in sharing the struggles of saints like Phoebe Palmer and Henri Nouwen, John Woolman and Thomas Kelly. Heath, The Mystic Way of Evangelism, Baker Academic, 2008. As reviewed  in my blog post 
++What is White Privilege? 
When it comes to race, the past is always present...Formal segregation in housing policies may have been struck down, but steering, where real estate brokers direct home buyers toward or away from particular neighborhoods based on race, is as effective as ever. School segregation is no longer the law of the land, but classrooms today are depressingly re-segregated. Yet no one is responsible...We end up with, as social scientist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva cals "racism without racists." 
If white folk refuse to name white privilege for what it is, then it is more likely that you will ignore how black inequality, black suffering, exists all around you. Those of you who know better than that must tell other white people what you know...Beloved, racism and bigotry are ugly, uncomfortable to grapple with, but if you don't address them, you reinforce the privilege of not having to face up to the truth. Dyson, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White AmericaSt. Martin's Griffin, 2017, pp. 79-80, 204.

 ++The Black Manifesto and Response of the White Churches

On May 4, 1969, Civil-rights leader James Forman interrupted the worship service at The Riverside Church in New York, to read The Black Manifesto. Forman speech called for $500 million in reparations from the predominately white American churches and Jewish synagogues for their role in perpetuating slavery. "Fifteen dollars for every black brother or sister in the United States is only a beginning of the reparations due us as a people who have been exploited, degraded, brutalized, killed, and persecuted." Quoted in Kwon and Thompson, Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair, 2021, pp. 97-98.

While Forman received a fraction of the funds called for from white congregations and judicatories (approximately $300,000), his success lies primarily in initiating a national debate about the responsibility of churches for their long history in perpetuating human enslavement.

++ A Letter from Birmingham Jail 

On the sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings, I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her impressive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is there God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with interposition and nullification?" Dr. Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963.

The Governor of Mississippi from 1960-1964, Ross Barnett was a strict segregationist based on the Supremacy of the White Race. Twice Barnett rejected James Meredith's application and admittance into the University of Mississippi. Finally, and with the ruling of the SCOTUS, James Meredith officially became the first African American student at the University of Mississippi on October 2, 1962. He was guarded twenty-four hours a day by reserve U.S. deputy marshals and army troops. Meredith fulfilled his childhood dream to graduate from the University of Mississippi with a degree in political science in the summer of 1963.  

"From September 30 to October 2, marshals and the later-arriving Mississippi National Guardsmen and U.S. army soldiers fought against the swarms of citizens. One hundred and sixty-six marshals and forty-eight American soldiers were injured, while two civilians were killed in the melee. About three hundred citizens were taken prisoner by marshals and federal troops. After the riot was crushed, the military continued to occupy Oxford for almost ten months." Source: Elizabeth Brevard, "September 30, 1962: James Meredith and the University of Mississippi," Face to Face: A Blog of the National Portrait Gallery

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