Racists Sabotaged Black Schools and Black Churches

March 14, 2018

After the Civil War white schools and churches became very nervous about the prospect of having free African Americans invade their white only places of worship and classrooms. According to Kenneth Mason, slave owners often brought their slaves to church to wait on them, outside in the rain, but after emancipation whites did not want any blacks near their churches or even walking nearby. According to the Express newspaper of May 21, 1868, when whites at the Presbyterian Church on Commerce Street, which was erected by John McCullough, discovered a “mixed race” person in their church the congregation forced her out. In fact, racialized whites may have burned a separate Sunday school Church building to the ground for former San Antonio slaves.  



Blacks created their own schools but they were sabotaged. Freedmen Bureau schools across the South were burned out by the former slave owners and their henchmen as they were not going to let blacks control their own schools. What they did was to set up black schools with white principals or white college presidents. This was done at Fisk, St Philips, and dozens of black schools. White racists were not going to let blacks control their own education.  When the Freedmen Bureau School was invited to teach Sunday school classes Freedmen leaders were accused inciting blacks to become the equal of whites. Racialized whites despised black attempts to go to their white churches or to their schools. Additionally, they wanted black schools to teach only vocational trades and not academics. Hence, black schools were inferior after the Freemen Schools were destroyed as a result of white control.


The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) became embroiled in the fight between the North and the South. The CME was closely connected to San Antonio’s German loyalists that refused to support Robert E. Lee and the institution of slavery. Fighting between the Germans and the former slave owning Democrats started in the white Methodist Episcopal Church over housing of the Lincoln Freedmen Bureau School in their church. While the Republicans tried to politically control blacks the Democrats were doing the same thing; but blacks were simply trying to build upon their rights. When black preachers began to receive funds from white preachers for promises to build their own churches, and stay out of white churches, fights began to develop between and within black churches. The national AME Church sent Reverend Richard Haywood to San Antonio. He was immediately accused of being an accomplice of the former slave owners.However, Haywood was able to establish St. James AME Church in 1868 and began a legal war to get the CME building.


One must remember that whites would pay money or do anything to keep blacks out of all-white churches and schools. After this fight, the Episcopalians then began efforts to control black education. According to Mason, the white AME Bishop, Alexander Gregg, argued that “Christian instruction would make ex-slaves more docile, and every effort should be made to encourage them to attend church services, to assume seats in the rear and balcony.” Clearly a bigot, Alexander Gregg saw to it that another white racist bishop named Robert Woodward Barnwell Elliot (R.W. B. Elliot) would be in charge of controlling African Americans.


In one of the most racist statements a Christian Bishop ever-made, Bishop Elliot said, “their docility exhibited during the Civil War . . .as agriculturists in our fields, and as domestics about our homes established a claim upon the soil of this country and the good-will of the white race.” Elliot believed that the freeing of blacks from slavery was not a good thing. Elliot and other racist white preachers from all of the other denominations were seeking ways to keep blacks in segregated churches and out of their “fine” churches and schools. Black schools were often attacked and pictures of Abraham Lincoln torn from the walls.


After Bishop R.W.B. Elliot died another racist named Reverend James Steptoe Johnston carried these segregationist ideas forth. He took advantage of a splinter group of the St. James AME Church that were more “bourgeoisie” than other St. James AME members and helped them to establish St Philip’s Episcopal Church in 1895. James Steptoe Johnston was a pro-slavery bigot that started St Philips to keep blacks in an inferior position. Many historians do not know these facts today. Johnston would go on to establish St. Philip’s College with the clear intention of making blacks docile and training them in jobs (the racist idea of vocational training at the time) that would remove them from competing with whites in areas that would imply blacks were their equals. Only after blacks protested was the white principal of St. Philips replaced, and eventually Artemisia Bowden became the president.





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