Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. F. W. Gregory
During the antebellum years, the First African Baptist Church had a significant influence on the religious and social life of Richmond Negroes. By the Civil War, several thousand blacks had been baptized under its auspices. In spite of white reluctance to permit an independent organization of Negro worshipers, the black members were allowed to leave the First Baptist Church of Richmond, a fact which countered the spirit of the times and distinguished this church. The Baptist Church in the South was not known for deep anti-slavery sentiments, especially after slavery became profitable. In addition, after 1831 many southern whites were fearful of providing what might be fertile ground for sequels to Nat Turner's revolt at Southampton, Virginia. These whites also feared created an atmosphere for the abolitionists' propaganda to take root. In Richmond, however, these fears did not automatically control decisions on racial issues. The success, or effectiveness, of the African Church has been noted by Robert Ryland in reference to its own leaders, and by Carter Goodwin Woodson in reference to the efforts of the Baptists.
Payne, Teresa, "Robert Ryland and the first African Baptist Church of Richmond : their antebellum years" (1974). Honors Theses. 282.