The Christian Recorder

Published by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, for the Dissemination of Religion, Morality, Literature and Science.” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Christian RecorderThe Christian Recorder was first published in 1854 under the editorship of the Rev. J.P. Campbell. This early edition was short-lived, however, and in 1861, under the editorship of Elisha Weaver, the New Series, Volume 1 began. Under this new leadership the Recorder was introduced into the South by distribution among the negro regiments in the Union army. Benjamin T. Tanner became editor in 1867, and was followed in that position in 1885 by the Rev. Benjamin F. Lee who served until 1892.

The Christian Recorder embodied secular as well as religious material, and included good coverage of the black regiments together with the major incidents of the Civil War. The four-page weekly contained such departments as Religious Intelligence, Domestic News, General Items, Foreign News, Obituaries, Marriages, Notices and Advertisements. It also included the normal complement of prose and poetry found in the newspapers of the day.

Outrages from the South were reported in purely factual terms: burnings of churches and parsonages, midnight visitations. Of course sermons were reproduced, but there was excellent reportage from correspondents all over the South and West. In sum, the virtue of the Recorder lies not in its religious role but in the picture it provides of the Negro situation throughout the country; from the tepid friendliness of at least some whites in the West, whether Cheyenne or Santa Fe, to the cry to freed Negroes, ‘Don’t come to Mississippi.’ Indeed this warning brings to mind one of the greatest features of the Recorder, the Information Wanted page that continued for years, week after week; inquiries about broken families, the enforced separations of parents, children, brothers, sisters, all relationships, deriving from the peculiar situation of the Cotton Kingdom. These inquiries provide small glimpses of thousands of human tragedies and constitute a most impressive indictment of the Old South.

— Augustus H. Able, III

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The Christian Recorder includes issues from July 1854 through March 1856; and is complete from 1861 through December 1902; excluding 1892.

It is worthy of note that it was the Recorder’s first editor, the Rev. J.P. Campbell (one-time minister at Bethel Church and later Bishop of the Philadelphia area), who collected the volumes of the Recorder that now make up the Bethel Church collection. Not only did he retain them, but he had them bound in the boards that have helped to preserve them.

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