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- Letter from Henry M. Turner: November 24, 1866
Letter from Henry McNeal Turner
Christian Recorder: November 24, 1866
Mr. Editor: In as much as it raining tonight, being the first night’s rest I have had for a month of any sort, and the only Sabbath night this year, I thought I would pen you a few lines, merely to let you know that there is such a place in the world as Georgia. Notwithstanding, if I were to judge by the respect paid to this field of labor, I should presume no one had any desire to hear from us. Were I not conscious that labor never loses her reward, and that the God who numbers the hairs of our head, will repay honest soil, I should feel discouraged and despondent. My labors this year have been heavy, and my cares have been many. Owing to the absence of Brother Lynch Lamah, whom I sent West, in hope of having him ordained to assist in this extended field. When he came back, and brought such glowing accounts of the A.M.E. Church, I would not have received one word of assistance from any source, calculated to encourage our members, and inspire contentment. But when he returned, disgusted as I was, for not complying with his instruction, in going directly to Bishop Payne, he, nevertheless, removed so many doubts, and ratified so many things I had said, to the gratification of so many, that I had to over-look other things, for much good was accomplished at any rate. And by some hook and a crook I made an assistant elder, who is now traveling with me, and doing great good. I will not tell just now how I got him, but his name is elder Joseph H. Jennings, and a hero he is. I am not much for shouting, but I think a man is excusable for shouting when Jennings gets hold of him. I could almost excuse a horse.
This has been a year of revivals in Georgia, some of our churches have led as high as 450 probationers on the list on the list, and as for conversions, they will only be known in eternity. Persons who were thought to be immovable, have been brought into the church and powerfully converted, not under me, but under God. In Columbus, GA, a few nights ago, at love feast, I saw over 500 persons praising God at once, I never expected to see such a night this side of heaven, nor do I believe such a scene was ever witnessed before in America.
I must avail myself of this opportunity of tendering my most grateful acknowledgments to N.R. Ashby, of Brooklyn, NY, for his valuable selection of books, donated to the Sabbath Schools of this field of labor; also to the American Tract Society, for an inestimable package, and to Perry Mitchell and others, for a box from Philadelphia, containing a rare selection of books for the same purpose. May your lives be long, your deaths precious, and your memories immortal.
The convention of colored men from all parts of the State, which was held here a few weeks since, did honor to our race, and exhibited a degree of progress intellectually, and highly commendable, in a people so recently freed. There was marked ability developed in their entire proceedings, the idea that colored men could not govern themselves, if permitted, is all a hoax. The addresses which they prepared and memorialized the legislature with, will stand as a monument of colored ability in Georgia for centuries.
A large number of our people recently left here for Liberia. The enterprise met with some opposition from intelligent sources; but they, nevertheless, bid good-by and took the road. I have been a stern opposer of that scheme for many years; but at present, I am willing to congratulate every man that will go, because, if he never goes, he only exercises his God-given rights, viz., go where you please. He is not driven, forced, or expatriated. Besides, the millions of Africans must be Christianized by some race of people, and I see none among all the inhabitants of the earth who are to do it, except the colored people of America, and if there were anyone else, there are none who have the same right that we have, and we should grudge them the honor of doing it. There is no doubt in my mind but our political rights will soon be given to me in this country. But after they are given, what of it? The religious claims of Africa will be none the less binding. Liberia is the nucleus around which will cluster African civilization and Christianity. And with all our former hate of the colonization enterprise, the day is not far distant when the founders of that institution will be ranked among our greatest benefactors. Prior to the emancipation of our people, I looked upon the colonization scheme as one of the tricks of slavery, to rid the county of free negroes. But I now believe it was conceived in mercy, and founded in wisdom, and the fact of its being unpopular with several of our leading men, argues no more against its final success, than did that odium which met the introduction of abolitionism.
From that I have gleaned in my readings about Africa, (and I have read much) I have come to this conclusion, that it is the richest continent under heaven, that her mineral and productive resources are unequalled by the world. And I am not prepared to believe that God would without reason vein a continent with so much rich ore, seed her soil with such a variety of subsisting produce, and populate her clime with so many millions of creatures, susceptible of the highest degree of mortal intelligence and intellectuality.