The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study

By W. E. B. Du Bois | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII.
THE ORGANIZED LIFE OF NEGROES.

31. History of the Negro Church in Philadelphia.-- We have already followed the history of the rise of the Free African Society, which was the beginning of the Negro Church in the North.1 We often forget that the rise of a church organization among Negroes was a curious phenomenon. The church really represented all that was left of African tribal life, and was the sole expression of the organized efforts of the slaves. It was natural that any movement among freedmen should centre about their religious life, the sole remaining element of their former tribal system. Consequently when, led by two strong men, they left the white Methodist Church, they were naturally unable to form any democratic moral reform association; they must be led and guided, and this guidance must have the religious sanction that tribal government always has. Consequently Jones and Allen, the leaders of the Free African Society, as early as 1791 began regular religious exercises, and at the close of the eighteenth century there were three Negro churches in the city, two of which were independent.2

____________________
1
Cf. Chapter III.
2
St. Thomas,' Bethel and Zoar. The history of Zoar is of interest. It "extends over a period of one hundred years, being as it is an offspring of St. George's Church, Fourth and Vine streets, the first Methodist Episcopal church to be established in this country, and in whose edifice the first American Conference of that denomination was held. Zoar Church had its origin in 1794, when members of St. George's Church established a mission in what was then known as Campingtown, now known as Fourth and Brown streets, at which place its first chapel was built. There it remained until 1883, when economic and sociological

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