Falls Church, VA
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Haygood's Legacy -- So what do Daniel Webster, the post-antebellum South, and Pat Boone have in common?
Why, the International Platform Association's (IPA) Silver Bowl Awards of course!!
This past Friday, my family gathered in Washington D.C., got dressed up (a big deal for some of us), and drove to the Army and Navy club to attend the IPA's annual meeting. It's not easy to get my family to gather on the same occasion. Holidays and trips to Costa Rica rarely are successful at accomplishing such a feat. Nevertheless, two days ago, I stood at the front of a room with two generations of my family to receive a Silver Bowl Lifetime in Education Achievement Award posthumously for my great, great, great grandfather, Atticus G Haygood.
Atticus Haygood was quite a man. He lived 1839 to 1896. During his lifetime, he was president of Emory College (now University), founded and reformed several black and white universities in the south, most notably Paine Institue (now college) in Augusta, preached as a pastor for the Methodist church throughout most of his life, and served as Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for the last six years of his life. During his spectacular life, he wrote several books dealing with issues such as Christian apologetics, methods for the New South's reconstruction and the healing of race relations in the tulmotuous post-war South. My grandfather and Uncle have spent the last year writing a biography of this man. Through their research, they have uncovered many interesting facts about our family's history, lineage, and have even been able to re-establish contact with cousins that we have not talked to for generations. (One side of the family ran away to Hawaii, it's no wonder that we haven't had contact with them). This year, the IPA decided to award Atticus Haygood by presenting him with a Silver Bowl award (other recipients include John F Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Elizabeth Taylor, William F. Buckley, Isaac Assimov, and George Gallup Jr.). I highly reccomend anyone who is interested to learn more about the IPA to view its website.
In preparation for the award ceremony, I read two of Haygood's books this summer: "The Man of Galilee" and "Our Brother in Black: His Freedom and His Future".
"The Man of Galilee" is a fascinating book. Haygood wrote it as a compilation of many lectures he had given at Emory about "The Man of Galilee," Jesus of Nazareth. He begins the book: "Who and what was Jesus of Nazareth? In this question and its answer is involved the whole of what we mean by Christianity" He acknowledges the same question that many modern day Christians acknowledge. If there was no Jesus, then there is not much of a basis for Christianity. In 1889 however, Haygood didn't have much access to carbon dating and modern forensic techniques. He instead proves Jesus' existence and his preaching's validity through logic and reasoning. This was the most powerful work of apologetics that I have encountered. Here are a few of the quotations that I picked out as meaningful:
"Nothing in Jesus calls on men to profess to believe what to them is not the truth;" (13)
"Whether with hand or brain man works upon materials furnished him; man creates nothing; man is created" (32) -part of the chapter which argues that the evangelists would not have been able to create such a character as Jesus, due to the fact that they would not have been able to draw a character so much taller than themselves and their context in history and their society.
"The disposition which we have been considering is a pure human instinct; it is restless, and it is the condition of mental activity. The mind that does not ask questions, that does not knock at the closed doors of knowledge, is stagnant and will perish. Progress and growth depend upon inquiry...But in these respects, as in so many others, Jesus is utterly unlike the philosophers and scientists and theologians. He does not in the least seek the end that mere men seek..He makes no inquiry, raises no question, offers no explanation concerning the origin of things" (64-65).
The book discuses his impact upon mankind through the ages, as wells as the benefits that come to the individual when he/she lives a life in accordance with the His teachings. After a 155 page proof of Jesus' influence and legitimacy however, Haygood makes a startling claim. His last paragraph is an incredible leap of faith: "But -- if he be only a man -- he is such a man as were a thousand times worth dying for and following forever, through time and eternity" (156). Haygood personally believed in Christ, but does not assume the same of his reader. But in his last statement, he captures the whole of his audience through his admission that even if he were wrong, he would not change his system of values. Even without the proof of Christ's divinity, Haygood still believes that he is the best example of a man that he can spend his time emulating.
"Our Brother in Black" is a much different read. The text is a bit drier because Haygood spends a lot of space presenting a description of the state of the south. His goals seemed to be as follows:
1. Describe the situation truthfully (which I'm not sure about whether or not he was able to accomplish. Although he did admit to some difficulties, his summaries seemed much too positive for what I know about the reconstruction years, but then again, I don't know much about it, and all of my history classes have taught me from a very shoddy post-revisionist mindset).
2. Describe how both slavery and emancipation were acts of providence so that the black race could become civilized and convert to Christianity.
3. Outline what needs to be done presently in the south to fix the nation's race problem and the relations between the Yankee carpetbaggers and the Southern Rebels. He claims that the three groups need to co-operate and realize that:
-a; the freedmen are humans, citizens, and voters
-b and as such, they must be treated well by churches, educated, engaged in community values, and have a better system of land ownership
4. His conclusion stated that the improvement of the black man in the south would lead to a stable society where their religion would flourish all for the purpose of enabling the black Christians to travel back to Africa, civilize the barbarians, and spread the word of God so that in one hundred years (ironic that it would have been about 1984) the United States would be a united country of God and the great land mass of savage Africa would become a blinding effusion of God's light and providence. (Haygood's entire tone reeked of colonialism. But that was the pevasive, if not the only, worldview of the time. It is valid that not even Haygood would have escaped it).
The book itself provides a fantastic view of the South at the time and the progressive movements that were beginning to gain momentum. After its publication, a Northern Philanthropist encountered the book, and becuase of its message, donated a large sum of money so that Haygood could establish all black colleges. Upon a first read of the book, I was a little suspicious of Haygood's optimism. He states many times that the majority of white southerners never treated the slaves poorly, and now just want to work with them as equals. These statements seem to conflict with the records we have of slavery (slave narratives) and the history that followed reconstruction (minimal amounts of Black people in office, Jim Crow laws, popularit of KKK and the paralysis, even the blind eye of the justice system). I was reading a biography of Haygood today however that states that he was very saddened about a decade after writing the book to find that popular opinion in the South was beginning to think it easier to oppress the black man as a citizen and as a voter rather than spending time and resources educating him to make him a more complete part of society. Upon learning this, I no longer question Haygood's optimism. He did see progress in the South. At the time of writing the book, he did sense hope for the future of the relations between the North, South, and the freedmen. Unfortunately, his message of hope and cooperation did not stick hold. Instead, many years would pass until Haygood's ideas would be grasped by the larger society.
All these thoughts about the two books and Haygood's life were passing through my mind as my six year old cousin stood holding the silver bowl, with my grandfather giving a speech behind a podium, as a new member of my family, who I had not known an hour prior stood next to me, and Pat Boone smiled in his very stylish white suit as pictures were taken of all of us. I thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony and all of the opportunities it provided to me. I am very fortunate to have such an amazing man as Atticus Haygood in my family tree. I have learned a tremendous amount from his books, as well as the converstaions they have enabled me to have with my family. In short, I am thankful for this very fortunate colliding of events and knowledge which, when looked at from afar, really doesn't seem like it fits together at all.
Posted to William Shaker's grandson Cass Lowry to his blog, as reported by William Shaker.