Negro Holiness Meetings

Negro Holiness Meetings:

Once a year a group of 200 or 300 negroes give a religious Camp Meeting in a field on the Canton Pike about one mile southeast of Hopkinsville. There is quite a settlement of negroes call themselves or their church the Holiness Church. They claim to be sanctified and cannot sin. A few nights ago I was invited to attend one of these meetings, the negroes reserve some benches under the tent for white people.

The night that I attended there were two preachers and it seems as though it is the duty of these preachers to bring their discourse to such a point as to play on the emotions of their congregation. The order of service begun with a hymn by the choir. The music for this consisted of a piano, banjo guitar and numerous tambourines. The negroes being naturally born with a great sense of rhythm the songs were not in the same tempo as the songs of the whites but were of a jazz tempo and with the banjo and tambourines it makes one think of the stories of the African jungles. The services start around 7:30 P.M. and usually break up around midnight.

The negroes in about one hour after the services start being[TR: begin?] to testify and then after each testimony someone offers a prayer then by this time someone in the congregation will be worked up to the pitch of shouting “Glory Hallelulah”. “When this shout starts the tambourine players will begin shaking the tambourines and shortly the majority of the congregation would be shouting, moaning or praying. The tambourines players bounce around in time to the music. There were some excellent untrained voices, in the choir and the congregation. The mourners bench was always full of mourners and when one of the Mourners would begin to shout the “Workers” would then let the congregation know that this brother or sister had repented by saying “Lets pray for Bro. or Sister —-, for he or she had “Come Through”. The congregation would begin clapping their hands while this prayer was in progress and general moanings with one or both of the preachers praying at the same time why this brother or sister is taken in to the flock to sin no more.

While the above is in progress there are other workers talking and singing to the rest of the mourners and when two or three “Come Through” at once there is great shouting rejoicing, clapping of hands and the tambourines continue to clang and the choir members dance and this process continues for hours or until the preachers become so exausted with their exhortations and contortions that the meeting is adjourned.

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007-2024. The WPA Slave Narratives must be used with care. There is, of course, the problem of confusion in memory resulting from (73+ years) of the participants. In addition, inexperienced interviewers sometimes pursued question lines related to their own interests and perspectives and attempted to capture the colloquialism of the informant's speech. The interviews provide fascinating insight and surprisingly candid information, however.

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