Black preachers, white congregants, circa 1800

“Henry Evans, a free man and shoemaker by trade, was licensed as a local preacher by the Methodists toward the end of the 18th century. Evans was responsible for ‘the planting of Methodism’ in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Originally preaching to black people only, he attracted the attention of some prominent whites, and ironically ‘the white portion of [his] congregation increased till the negroes were crowded out of their seats.’ Evans was displaced by a white minister but continued as an assistant in the church he founded until his death in 1810.

“John Chavis, another free black, was appointed by the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1801 to work in Virginia and North Carolina ‘as a missionary among people of his own color’…. Chavis did not confine his ministry to Negroes. In 1808 he opened a school in Raleigh, North Carolina, for the instruction of white children by day and black children at night. In 1832 Chavis was barred from preaching by a North Carolina law which forbade slaves and free Negroes to exhort or preach in public.”

— From “Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution’ in the Antebellum South” by Albert J. Raboteau (2004)