Civil War and Emancipation Blogs: First African Baptist and Benjamin Morgan Palmer


Paul Harvey

A note on a new blog of interest to many of you: Civil War Emancipation, established by Donald Shaffer, author of After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans and other publications. He writes the following of the blog:

The purpose of this blog is: 1) to commemorate important milestones in emancipation in the Civil War as their 150th anniversary arrives in the Sesquicentennial; 2) to discuss noteworthy publications on this subject; 3) to comment on current events related to the Civil War and Emancipation; 4) plus write on whatever else comes to mind that is appropriate. I intend to blog regularly on emancipation throughout the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

A recent post at the new blog discusses and points to the full text to Benjamin Morgan Palmer's famous Thanksgiving Day sermon in Nov. of 1860 in New Orleans, a key text in summarizing the "providential trust" given to southerners to "conserve and to perpetuate the institution of domestic slavery."

The new blog also accompanies the ongoing series going on at the New York Times, Disunion, which is following, in day-by-day format, the sesquicentennial of the secession winter. One entry from Jan. 24th, by Lois Leveen, features an outstanding discussion of the unusual place of the First African Baptist Church of Richmond, the largest black congregation in antebellum America.. The church took shape in the early 1840s and was pastored by a white man appointed to oversee the congregation, Robert Ryland, who (among other things) encouraged slave literacy. The church often rented out its sizable auditorium for citywide political events and entertainments (including minstrel shows). On Jan. 23, 1861, the church opened its doors for white workingmen of Richmond (including a sizable proportion of foreign-born men) to discuss "the alarming state of our beloved country." The meeting adjourned without resolving the sentiments of white locals, who were largely Unionist but starting a slow and agonizing move towards secession.

Normally I teach a course each spring in Civil War/Reconstruction. By happenstance I'm not doing so now, but wish I was so I could take advantage of these exciting new resources, which allow an "in the moment" feeling for the dramatic events of the period. For religious historians, the resources are rich, as well, as evidenced by the extensive discussion linked above to the role of First African Baptist in Richmond.

Congratulations to Prof. Shaffer for his new blog; I look forward to following it.


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