Wilmington church displayed racial schism

“The ownership of church property provoked bitter controversy [during Reconstruction]. A case in point: the Front Street Methodist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina,  whose congregation before the war numbered about 1,400, two-thirds of them black.

“When Union soldiers occupied the city early in 1865, the black members informed Rev. L. S. Burkhead ‘that they did not require his services any longer… he being a rebel,’ and proceeded to elect a black minister in his place. Gen. John M. Schofield, emulating Solomon, ordered that the spiritual day be divided equally between the races, each with a minister of its own choosing. The conflict continued into 1866, with Rev. Burkhead preaching in the old manner (although a few blacks, he complained, ostentatiously attempted to sit downstairs during his sermons).

“Eventually, the white minority regained control, and most of the blacks left to form an independent congregation.”

— From “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” by Eric Foner (1988)

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