Thursday, June 6, 2013
Monday, May 6, 2013
Forthcoming in the Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner, Vol 3
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
As we celebrate the 150th year of the Emancipation Proclamation, historian Kidada Williams reminds us that as we celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the document, we should examine what the Emancipation did and did not do. Williams writes that:
Further, she notes that despite the belief of many, the Emancipation “did not free all enslaved people.”
Drawing from James McPherson, Williams acknowledges the ineffectiveness of the proclamation because the Union could not enforce it in areas they did not control.
Williams closes her essay by offering a place for the Emancipation within the collective consciousness of the nation.
While in her essay, she touched on the mixed reactions to the Emancipation, for black people during the time and despite its limitations, the Emancipation already had a place alongside the other important national documents, (ie. the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, etc). African Americans saw the Emancipation as a liberative document—one ordained by God, and one that continued America’s freedom and liberty experiment that was finally to include African Americans. While the document was a military order and the document did not free all enslaved people, we should not underestimate the rhetorical meaning of the Emancipation and how African Americans adopted uses of its meanings. It allowed many of them to begin imagining a new America where all its people could enjoy the freedoms that many proclaimed. One such figure that the Emancipation inspired was Henry McNeal Turner.
Turner did not start as a supporter of Lincoln’s earlier efforts at Emancipation. He vigorously attacked Lincoln’s “Message to Congress Recommending Compensated Emancipation,” in March 1862, in which Lincoln offered cooperation with any state, which adopted gradual abolishment of slavery and promoted a “giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State, in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system.” Turner wrote:
After Lincoln announced the Emancipation, Turner’s views changed. While there were some African Americans who questioned the motives of Lincoln regarding the Emancipation, Turner did not. Turner wrote a response to the Emancipation where he defended Lincoln. He wrote, “Mr. Lincoln embodied his conscientious promptings when he wrote that proclamation.” While he acknowledged the political situation that possibility led Lincoln to write the Proclamation, he saw Lincoln’s early apathy at Emancipation as an “unnecessary caution, and a useless prudence," but not as others saw as a "love of slavery.” He closed by exhorting people to thank God for it (Proclamation)" because "Mr. Lincoln loves freedom as well as anyone on earth, and if he carries out the spirit of the proclamation he need never fear hell. God grant him a high seat in glory (111-112).
To understand the importance however, of the Emancipation to African Americans who witnessed and lived through it, one only have to examine Turner’s appreciation of it later in his life. In 1913, African Americans celebrated the fiftieth year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. In response to the celebration, the AME church asked then Bishop Henry McNeal Turner to write a reflection on the meaning of the Emancipation. However, the selection of Turner was not without problems. At this time, Turner shifted from one filled with optimism after the signing of the Emancipation to one that believed America did not hold any promises for African Americans. Turner found himself out of the mainstream of both American and African American political and social thought.
While this seemed to be another opportunity for Turner to rain down bitter anathemas and criticize the country for not living up to the ideals and principals after the Emancipation, Turner offered an eloquent, moving reflection of the time. Published in the January 1913 edition of the AME Journal, Turner’s “Reminiscences of the Proclamation of Emancipation,” reminded many not only of his legacy and his importance to the AME Church, but also it introduced Turner to a new audience—one that only knew him as a pessimistic prophet.
About the issuing of the Emancipation, Turner wrote, "The newspapers of the country were prolific and unsparing in the laudations of Mr. Lincoln. Every orator after reviewing in their richest eloquence concluded their speeches and orations by saying, “God save Abraham Lincoln,” or “God bless our President.”
“In the great Union Cooper Hall in New York City,” Turner continued, “a colored man leaped and jumped with so much agility when the proclamation was read that he drew attention of every man and woman till Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation was scarcely listened to. New songs were sung and new poems composed…. On the first day of January 1863, odd and unique condition attended every mass meeting and the papers of the following day were not able to give them in anything like detail.”
Turner also shared how he went by getting a copy of the emancipation. In a humorous story, Turner wrote:
When the people heard the proclamation read aloud Turner wrote,
Turner closed his essay with these words:
Hyperbole aside, Turner’s “Reminiscence of the Emancipation” spoke to what he truly longed for in America, for African Americans—a chance to be free and to be part of the American fabric. Despite his bitterness toward the country during this time, Turner could still reflect back on a time that America could have headed into another direction with the Emancipation leading the way.
Johnson, Andre E. (ed). An African American Pastor Before and During the American Civil War: The Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner, Vol. 1. Edwin Mellen Press, New York, 2010.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Henry McNeal Turner on one of the major issues during his time--the passage of the Civil Rights Bill that was debated in Congress. This was his response to President Grant wavering on supporting its passage because Republicans had just lost big in a midterm election. Sounds familiar??
Friday, November 2, 2012
On July 13, 1876—only a few weeks into his new role as Publications Manager for the African Methodist Episcopal Church and only four years away from his rise to a bishopric—Turner excitedly took to the columns of the church's weekly newspaper, the Christian Recorder. He bragged that "arrangements have been made with Mrs. F. E. W. Harper for the publication of one of her inimitably written Stories." Turner not only pronounced the tale "superb" but emphasized that it was "a Temperance Story" and was so "thoroughly religious" that "our brethren need not fear to make this announcement even from the pulpit."
Turner and editor Benjamin Tucker Tanner hoped such announcements—made a month before serialization began—would give "time to those who may wish to subscribe and get the first chapters." While Turner was undoubtedly enthusiastic about the content of Sowing and Reaping, its author's name recognition also served as "evidence of the new Manager's intention to strengthen the columns of the RECORDER" and might, in itself, garner new subscribers.
Read the rest here