Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen

The emancipation of 4,000,000 slaves, at the close of the Civil War, was the sudden opening of a new and a vast field of opportunity and duty, before the Christian Churches of this land.

The education and moral elevation of the Freedmen became, in both Church and state, a very serious and vital question. Ever since the foundation of the government, the Church, through the voluntary establishment of academies and colleges, has been co-operating with the civil government, in the effort to develop in all parts of our land an intelligent Christian citizenship.

The Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen was organized as a committee in 1865, the last year of the Civil War. In 1882 this committee was made and incorporated as a Board. Its work then assumed a more permanent form and the contributions to its work began to be greatly increased. The contributions received that year were $68,268.08. In 1913 the amount received to be applied to this work was $323,899.29. The amount of property held by it and used for educational and Church purposes is $1,831,610.09. The office of the board is at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Women Enlisted In 1884

In 1884 the interest of the women of the Presbyterian Church was enlisted in behalf of the women and girls among the Freedmen. The progress of the work of the Women’s Missionary societies, in establishing and maintaining educational institutions, is worthy of special mention.

During their first year they contributed $3,010; the second, $7,966; the third, $17,075; and in 1913, $85,236.09.

In raising this last amount 675 Sunday schools and 1082 Young People’s societies co-operated with 3591 Women’s societies.

To the women, almost entirely, is due the establishment and maintenance of most of the boarding schools now supported by the board. The names of some of the most consecrated workers and liberal contributors have been commemorated in the names of most of these institutions. That this fact may be noted and as a matter of general information, the following list of twenty-four of them is given.

List of Boarding Schools

  1. For Males Only
    • Biddle University, Charlotte, North Carolina
    • Harbison Agricultural College, Irmo, South Carolina
  2. Seminaries for Girls Only
    • Scotia, Concord North Carolina
    • Mary Allen, Crockett, Texas
    • Ingleside, Burkeville, Virgnia
    • Mary Holmes, West Point, Mississippi
    • Barber Memorial, Anniston, Alabama
  3. Co-Educational
    • Allendale Academy, Allendale, South Carolina
    • Albion Academy, Franklinton, North Carolina
    • Alice Lee Elliott Memorial, Valliant, Oklahoma
    • Arkadelphia Academy, Arkadelphia, Arkansas
    • Boggs Academy, Keyesville, Georgia
    • Brainard Institute, Chester, South Carolina
    • Emerson Industrial Institute, Blackville, South Carolina
    • Fee Memorial Institute, Nelson, Kentucky
    • Gillespie Normal, Cordele, Georgia
    • Haines Industrial, Augusta, Georgia
    • Kendall Institute, Sumpter, South Carolina
    • Mary Potter Memorial, Oxford, North Carolina
    • Monticello Academy, Monticello, Arkansas
    • Cotton Plant Academy, Cotton Plant, Arkansas
    • Coulter Memorial Academy, Cheraw, North Carolina
    • Redstone Academy, Lumberton, North Carolina
    • Swift Memorial College, Rogersville, Tennessee

In addition to those in these boarding schools, 112 teachers are employed in the maintenance of this same number of day schools.

In his last annual report, April 1, 1913, Rev. E. P. Cowan, D. D., secretary of the Board submitted the following interesting summary of its work.

“The Freedmen’s Board has ever kept in mind the one great fact that its work is, first, last and all the time, missionary work. We have aimed from the very beginning to follow a course that would commend itself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. We have always sought the counsel and advice of good men on the field, at times nearer our work than ourselves, and better able to judge of its condition. We have endeavored to exert such an influence over the people among whom we have labored, so that no one could object to it except he were a heathen or an infidel. As a consequence, all the opposition we have met with in all these years has been as nothing, compared with the sympathy and encouragement we have received from good men.

“We have this year issued our forty-eighth annual report. This annual report shows that we have now in connection with our Church, four colored Synods, composed of sixteen colored Presbyteries, in which there are four hundred and four Church organizations, with twenty-six thousand, one hundred and thirty-two communicants, two hundred and eighty-nine ordained ministers of the Gospel, and thirteen hundred and seventeen ruling elders.

“Within these Presbyteries, there are one hundred and thirty-six schools, and in these schools there are 16,427 pupils, taught by 448 teachers, all of whom are professing Christians, and by a rule of the Board, members of the Presbyterian Church.

“In all these schools, the Word of God and the Shorter Catechism are regularly and daily taught. On the mind and heart of every living soul that passes in and out of our schools, there is impressed the fundamental and far-reaching truth, that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, and that the Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.

“These Churches and schools, and ministers and teachers-588 workers in all-are housed in 470 buildings, of which 300 are Church buildings, 70 are manses, and 100 are school buildings. The value of these buildings is estimated at $1,561,000. The cry comes up to us without ceasing for either more room, or better accommodations. Should we answer these cries promptly, and without regard to the question as to where the money is to come from, we should be hopelessly overwhelmed with debt within one year.”

Trains Christian Leaders

The Freedmen are naturally religious and hitherto their Churches have been their principal social centers. Under uneducated leadership, the only kind possible at first, their Church life was characterized by a loose moral standard, poor business methods and boisterous worship. In many places it still lacks a realization of the real needs of the race.

“The true standard bearers of better things have been the relatively few ministers and Churches that have been noted for their educated ministry, restraint in worship, rigid morals and careful supervision.”

The wisdom of the policy of training capable Christian leaders was emphasized at the last General Assembly at Atlanta, by Rev. H. A. Johnson, D. D., in the following pertinent paragraph:

“The vital need of the negro people is a trained Christian leadership. Their problem can never be solved by elementary education for the masses, or industrial training for those who enter the trades and till the farm. They must have thoroughly trained Christian teachers and ministers of the Gospel and should also have the other professions represented among their leaders. The men, who are conspicuous leaders among the Negroes in industrial training, are publicly saying that they expect such organizations as the Presbyterian Church to furnish the ministers and teachers for their people, while they furnish the farmers, the carpenters and other tradesmen. The task of furnishing this trained leadership is being bravely attempted by our Board within the limitations of their available resources. Every intelligent student of the problem must realize how supremely important is this phase of the work.”

Worthy Of Generous Support And Endowment

The Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church merits the intelligent sympathy and cordial co-operation not only of our whole Church but of all the friends who favor Christian education among the dependent colored people in the south part of our land.

It educates ministers and teachers, and supports them in their work. It builds academies, seminaries and colleges, and aids in the erection of Churches and manses. Its 24 boarding schools, having normal and industrial departments, are distributed so that there is one or more in every southern state.

It now owns and controls school, Church and manse properties that represent a value of one and a half million dollars.

Its permanent investments, that bring an annual income for the promotion of its work however, are yet only $200,202.50. In these days of big business, the evidence of unusual prosperity, it ought to have an endowment of one million dollars.

Education is the most costly of all philanthropic enterprises. The following reason recently expressed for a large endowment of the College Board applies with equal force to the Freedmen’s Board.

“A million dollar corporation is now considerably more than twice as efficient, as an instrument to accomplish results than one of a half million. In this day of large things the men who are interested in education, prefer to employ as their agent, an organization whose resources are large enough to place its permanent and financial stability beyond question. A bank with a million dollars of capital has considerable advantage over one having only a quarter of a million. The law, ‘To him that hath shall be given,’ still prevails among the children of men.”

The members of the Freedmen’s Board have been selected, because of their manifest interest in the educational and spiritual welfare of the colored people; and they are conscientiously striving, to the best of their ability, to promote the interests of the Freedmen, in behalf of the great body of generous hearted Christian people whom they represent.

The work of the Freedmen’s Board has hitherto by its charter been limited to the Freedmen in southern states. At the next General Assembly, an effort will be made to extend its work, so as to include the Negroes in the northern states.

Flickinger, Robert Elliott. Choctaw Freedmen and Oak Hill Industrial Academy, Valliant, Oklahoma. Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen. Pittsburgh. 1914

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