Visit to Wilberforce University: July 24, 1873

Visit to Wilberforce University
Christian Recorder: July 24, 1873

Mr. Editor: -- Notwithstanding my promise last Christmas to give you a letter every week; I have written nothing in several months. It is for no want of interest in the Recorder, however, but has been owing to my unintermitted engagements. But I thought I would snatch a few moments from time’s tremulous quiver, while tortured by a headache to scribble out the following, which I design to be a sketch of my late visit to Wilberforce University.

And by the way allow me to say, I have just read the last chapter in that inestimable book, Credo, which I would recommend to every young minister in the A. M. E. Church; I do not know who wrote Credo. But certainly no abler body of Methodistic Divinity, has ever appeared in print, for its size and the subjects upon which it treats. The author has possibly withheld his name, because he thought his position on Satan was vulnerable, or at least would evoke attacks.

If such were his apprehensions, I think them groundless, for I am frank to confess, I have never before seen a treatise upon his Satanic Majesty, that so thoroughly and comprehensively defined his nature, position, qualities, and office.

“But what about your visit to Wilberforce?”

O yes, I did promise to tell you about it, but I had Credo, so thick on the brain, I was about to forget.

Well, I left home on June 12, to attend the annual Commencement, and Trustee meeting of Wilberforce University. Our democratic Press, having heard of my intention to leave the State, did as the always do, make haste to publish my departure; but strange to say, attributed to it no improper design, but to the contrary complimented both me and the object of my visit out North. It seems like a new era is dawning between me and the democrats of Georgia. When they can use such language as the following: (about me) “The Popular Preacher,” “The Influential Minister,” “The Hon. Dr. Turner,” and “The Rev. Dr. Turner,” surely the Lion and the Lamb will lie together soon.

Nothing, however, transpired on the way to break the monotony of the clink clank of the cars, till my arrival at Nashville, Tenn. Here I found the cholera striding from door to door, with a greed and voracity as unsatisfiable as a legion of hungry vampires, or the starving bats of Madagascar. Thousands of the inhabitants had fled the city, for fear of this monster, and thousands were there under the squirm of miserable apprehensions. Death had transported so many souls to the spirit world, however that it was not surprising that the prayerless, at least, should feel a little uncomfortable. I was proud to hear from all quarters, that Dr. Revels, (the man who gave me to the church) was equal to this fearful disease, and that almost in every instance, where he assaulted its bulwarks, they had to succumb to his mature genius and medicated remedies. He was one and a half per cent a head of any other Physician in the city. I saw a noble tribute paid to the Doctor, in one of the Georgia papers, but the writer was too mean to mention him by name, “A Colored Doctor” was all the name given.

The next place I halted at, was Louisville, Ky. Here at the Butler House, I met the young gentleman Prof. C. B. Smith, who is doing more to elevate the rising generation of race, than any layman in the country. While he is an exhibiter of Panoramic sceneries, they are strictly moral and scientific; besides he seeks to give distinction to his own race, unlike hundreds who are eternally exhibiting white persons, none of whom possibly ever said a word for liberty, or justice. He on the contrary exhibits, a Bishop Allen, Bishop Quinn, Gov. Dunn, Hon. F. Douglass, &c., and contemplates having all the great colored men of the nation in a short time.

That of itself ought to make it one of the most attractive exhibitions ever devised or put on foot. I hope Prof. Smith will never stop until he has completed the list of great colored men, both among the prelates, statesmen, orators, professors, poets, scientists &c., &c., for there is no question about them, all being represented under colored skins. Should the Prof. succeed in this novel enterprise, he will arouse new incentives among colored aspirants for distinction and renown.

But Prof. Smith and his sceneries, were not the only source of gratification that came under my observation at Louisville. That fine looking, grand and well attired congregation, at Quinn Chapel, was a sight that almost threw me into ecstasy.

At the head of our church, Asbury, I found a ripe scholar and an able logician in the person of Rev. R. H. Mortimor. I did not see its congregation in its regalia, and therefore cannot offer an opinion of it.

The Sabbath Union embracing the children of all the colored Methodists and Psedo-Baptists churches of the city, was another grand sight, which happily for me, met on the Sabbath I spent in this city. I only wish I could believe the readers of the Recorder, would be pleased to have a sketch of it, but as I fear it would not be duly appreciated, suffice it to say, -- It is one of the noblest pieces of moral machinery I have seen in a great while. The ultimate tendency is to abolish all denominational prejudice, and establish the common brotherhood and destiny of our race. I had to regret that our Baptist children were not represented in this grand assembly, where they too, might receive an impulse for good, by the competitive system, inaugurated by the Union. But I will not offer any criticism, when I remember that on my return through Louisville, a Baptist brother came several miles on the cars with me; who among other things told me, that John the Baptist, established the Baptist church, and it had as such been handed down to us. I thanked him for his information, but kindly requested him to re-peruse his history, and he would find a very small mistake of about 1500 years; which of course did not amount to much out of 1800 and over; but it was well enough to note that fact.

After leaving Louisville, I next halted at Wilberforce University, the point of destination. Here every thing rose to a grandeur that beggared description…...The University buildings so far transcended my expectation (for I had not been there in ten years), that I scarcely realized I was at the place. Like Bishop Bascome when his eyes first caught a view of Niagara Falls, I had to exclaim, God of Grandeur what a scene! I am now sorry I did not note the size of the building, yards, campus &c., but suffice it to say, a tree and unvarnished portraiture of the place, including the mineral springs, ravines, walks, adjacent buildings, &c., would seem more like a fairy tale, to those at a distance, than an actual fact. It would be useless for me to review the Commencement exercises at Wilberforce. As they have been fully reported by the Rev. B. W. Arnett, the able, eloquent, and gentlemanly pastor of our church at Cincinnati, of whom I shall speak in my next letter.

Wilberforce has risen from the embers of the incendiary, to a first class institution of learning, and now ranks as such throughout the civilized world. Beside she stands as a monument of negro genius, and industry, and what is better than all, demonstrates his moral and intellectual equality with the progressive nations of the earth.

The young men and ladies, who are leaving her halls, will go forth like Samson’s foxes with fire brands in their hands, to consume the ignorance of our race, while Bishops Payne and Shorter its two founders shall be remembered for ever and ever.



(To be continued).