To Save My Race from Abuse: The Life of Samuel Robert Cassius

By Edward J. Robinson | Go to book overview

Introduction

Samuel Robert Cassius (1853–1931), an ardent black evangelist and a scrupulous race man1 in Churches of Christ, straddled two complex worlds. In the world of religion, Cassius toiled as a passionate preacher in the StoneCampbell Movement,2 relying on white believers for financial support as he advanced the “pure Gospel”3 among African Americans. Cassius constantly pled with white Christians for monetary assistance, even as he vigorously protested and detested the paternalism and racism he faced in his chosen religious community. In the world of race, Cassius, an ex-slave, worked to elevate his people in an anti-black society that discounted black Americans and portrayed them as intellectually inept, habitually immoral, and naturally demonic. Cassius angrily rejected those stereotypes in sermons, writings, and deeds. Cassius’s preoccupation with the evangelization of black people in America merged with his thinking about race so seamlessly that his racial thought and his religious behavior became virtually indistinguishable.

A telling illustration of Cassius’s fusion of race and religion emerged in 1920 when Thomas H. Kirkman, a white preacher for Churches of Christ along the Ohio–West Virginia border, invited Cassius to proclaim the Gospel to blacks in the Ohio Valley. Kirkman, confident in Cassius’s preaching ability, arranged two evangelistic appointments for him. “We have the offer of the colored Baptist meeting house in Point Pleasant, W. Va., for a meeting at that place. We have a place in Gallipolis, Ohio, where he can preach the Gospel to his own race,” Kirkman wrote.4

Cassius enthusiastically accepted Kirkman’s proposal, planning his Gallipolis arrival for June 12. “I am making my way to this point, without the

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