Don't Miss the Four-Volume Works of Francis Grimke!

Francis Grimke (1850-1937), the son of a white plantation owner and a slave, was the pastor of 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C., from 1878 until 1928 (with a brief pastorate in Jacksonville, Florida, in the middle of that period). He left his Charleston, South Carolina, home after the Civil War, and attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. From there he went to Princeton University, graduating in 1878. He was an ardent advocate for the rights of African-Americans, and helped to found the NAACP in 1909. His ministry was not only one of preaching, but of writing as well, and his collected writings are contained in the four volumes found here

Here's a sample of what Grimke had to say on preaching: "In preaching are we seeking to impress the truth, or to impress ourselves upon others,—to draw men's attention to Jesus Christ or to ourselves? Too often it is of ourselves that we are thinking; and this is one reason why, though we may preach brilliant and eloquent sermons, they are attended with so little results in the development of Christian character, in the building up of those who listen in faith and holiness. The preacher's aims should be to get such a clear conception of the truth, and should be so impressed with its value, its importance, that in his effort to present it, he will not only lose sight of himself, but his hearers also will, in thought of the truth. It is of no importance whatever that our hearers should think of us, but it is important that they should
think of the truth of God presented." (Volume 3, page 3)

The Published Works of James W. C. Pennington

James William Charles Pennington (1807-1870) was an African-American pastor in the Congregational and Presbyterian churches. He escaped from slavery at the age of 19 and became a leading abolitionist. His story is told on the website of the Presbyterian Historical Society and in the 2011 book  American to the Backbone: The Life of James W.C. Pennington, the Fugitive Slave Who Became One of the First Black Abolitionists by Christopher L. Webber. 

Pennington wrote many articles for magazines and newspapers, and he published two books: The Fugitive Blacksmith (1841), and A Text Book of the Origin and History of the Colored People (1850)Both can be found on the Log College Press website here

Francis James Grimke is an African-American Presbyterian pastor you need to know.

One purpose of Log College Press is to bring back to the corporate memory of Presbyterians the forefathers we have forgotten, and their writings. None are more forgotten than the African-American Presbyterian pastors of the 19th century.

Francis Grimke (1850-1937) was a 1878 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. He pastored the 15th Street Presbyterian Church from 1878-1928, with a few years of ministry in the middle of that time at a Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, FL. In 1909 he helped to found the NAACP. He was a prolific writer, and in due time we will post all of his writings that we can locate. For now, we have posted Volume 1 of his Works, which contains biographical addresses on distinguished Americans, racial addresses, a three part series on the causes and remedies of lynching in the South (written in 1899), and twenty-two miscellaneous sermons. 

Get to know this servant of the Lord and what he had to say to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! 

Titus Basfield - From Slave to Associate Presbyterian Church Minister

In the book An Interesting History of the life of Titus Basfield: A Colored Minister in the Associate Presbyterian Church, one catches a rare glimpse of the ministry of an African American Presbyterian pastor before the Civil War. Born into slavery, Titus Basfield would become a successful minister of the Gospel, though not without great troubles in this life. He would have to overcome and survive far greater difficulties than most today, but ultimately Basfield proved a profitable servant of the Lord Jesus.

Basfield was born in Virginia in 1806, and as a young boy his father died. Titus was one of six children. He along with his mother and youngest sister would eventually be taken by a slave trader down to Tennessee where his sleeping sister at a very young age would be sold out of her crying mother’s arms. This event would leave a mark upon young Titus. Titus would wind up near Knoxville, Tennessee, then through successive travels with various masters he would move around from place to place. One master, James Reid, allowed Titus to read the Bible, and eventually allowed Titus to begin to sit under the ordinances of the Associate Church. The Associate Church became something Titus was attached to, on account of the pure gospel preached among them. James Reid was disposed to leave Tennessee, however, and move to Alabama – leaving Titus without his beloved Church. Seeing this to be an issue, Rev. David Carson of the Associate Church stepped in. He knew the young slave had been faithfully attending gospel ordinances and was apt to keep him. He visited Mr. Reid and was determined to buy Titus and emancipate him. Though Reid stood in the way, Rev. Carson threatened him by making it clear that if he removed his slave from gospel ordinances he would not profit him. Eventually it was worked out, and Titus was purchased and freed.

Titus, having a sharp mind, excelled in studies, and after attending Synod one year with Carson was interested in studying for the ministry. Titus left Tennessee for Ohio, and after studying Theology in Canonsburg was licensed the 27th of June, 1842. From there he would go to London, Ontario, to be a missionary to freedmen and runaway slaves. It was here that all the love Titus had for the Associate Church would be most severely tested.  As a missionary he was not properly provided for, and struggled to make ends meet. This put him at constant odds with Presbytery and the Synod. In fact both Presbytery and Synodical courts declined to hear his case. He felt all alone and got a bad name with the Canada Mission. Yet he remained faithful and did what he could.

Perhaps most interesting, Titus Basfield seems to have written this work mostly to guard against the bad name he got on the mission field in London, Ontario. He would contribute one last thing of note: he refused to enter the union between the Associate Reformed Church and the Associate Church, and though he was a small minority, he helpfully wrote down his reasons why he refused to join. These reasons are of great historical significance in understanding the United Presbyterian merger.

Have you read John Chavis' "Letter on the Extent of the Atonement"?

John Chavis was an African-American pastor in North Carolina and Virginia in the early part of the 19th century. He was one of the most important free African-Americans in North Carolina before the Civil War. Educated at Washington and Lee University (before it was called that) and at Princeton under John Witherspoon, he also served in the Revolutionary War. You can read more about him on the biography linked to on his page, as well as in the biography written by Helen Chavis Othow.

On Chavis' page you will also find his "Letter on the Extent of the Atonement." In this letter, Chavis argues against a Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement, and for an Arminian doctrine of universal atonement. The University of North Carolina has graciously allowed us to post this letter on our site (from the North Carolina Collection. The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. ). It is a fascinating read from an early American Presbyterian. For the background of the letter, see Othow's biography.

Negro Slavery Unjustifiable - by Alexander McLeod (1802)

It is unfortunate that this 1802 discourse by Alexander McLeod, a Reformed Presbyterian Church minister in New York, did not have a greater impact upon Presbyterians across the nation. How different would our nation's history, and present, be if his arguments had pricked the hearts and changed the minds of his contemporaries, particularly if they had been able to reach into the South. 

The first African-American to speak in the US House of Representatives was a Presbyterian pastor!

Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882) had been the pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., for less than a year, when in 1865 the Chaplain of the US House of Representatives, William H. Channing, requested him to preach a memorial discourse on the occasion of the approval of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, abolishing slavery in the country. In so doing he became the first African-American man to speak in the US Capitol building. Garnet had been educated classically in New York, having escaped Southern slavery with his family when he was nine years old. He came into contact with the Presbyterian church through the ministry of Theodore Sedgwick Wright, and eventually became a Presbyterian pastor in New York, and then Washington, D.C. 

His life story and memorial discourse is found here, and is important reading for Presbyterians today. 

What Did a 19th Century African-American Think of Presbyterianism's Relationship to African-Americans?

Matthew Anderson entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1874, and was the first black student to reside in the main seminary building. He became the pastor of Berean Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA, and in 1897 he wrote Presbyterianism: Its Relation to the Negro. As the 21st century church seeks gospel peace and harmony among various ethnicities, this book would be an interesting and important source from which to learn how our heritage has thought through these issues in years gone by.

In the preface to his work, Anderson remarks, "We have always thought, and we believe rightly, that the Presbyterian Church has an important mission to perform among the colored people of the United States. The doctrines held by the church are the best calculated to correct the peculiar faults of the Negro, his legacy from slavery, and thus give him that independence and decision of character necessary to enable him to act nobly and well his part as a man and a citizen of our great republic" (7-8). In spite of what from our vantage point could be viewed as a paternalistic tone from Anderson toward his own people, yet his conviction is sound: the Presbyterian Church does indeed have a great and important mission to perform among - and the doctrines of our church are best calculated to correct the faults of - white, black, brown and every other color of skin under the sun.