The highest expression of Negro life both in individuals and in groups is through their churches. Religious expression has been the very life blood of the Negro heart. Shut out from many of the civic activities of the communities and the nation, restricted from much of its great business development, limited in the enjoyment of its surging intellectual life, the Negro has found an outlet for his great self-expression through the organizations of his churches and their activities. Some indications of this religious life and progress should be mentioned.

The Negro loves his Church and pours into its organization and life enthusiasm, money, and energy, all largely increased because other avenues for group expression are closed to him. In 1860 there were probably about 1,000 edifices and about 700,000 Negro church members in the United States. In 1920, about five out of every eleven Negroes in the United States were church members. They had about 37,773 church edifices and about 3,618 parsonages in 1916 with an estimated value of more than $73,681,668 and an estimated indebtedness of more than $16,175,559. The distinctly Negro denominations of exclusively Negro churches had about 3,205,047 members in 1906 and about 4,083,278 members in 1916. The denominations consisting of white and Negro members had about 439,545 Negro members in 1906 and 480,771 Negro members in 1916. In the Negro denominations alone there were about 31,624 ministers in 1906 and about 34,962 in 1916.1

The average Negro country church comprises usually a rectangular frame structure, often unpainted outside and in, with plain benches, and a platform and pulpit for the preacher. Sometimes there are special enclosures for the choir and a reed organ. Services are held once or twice a month with Sunday-school as a seasonal activity controlled by the weather and condition of the roads. Financial support is inadequate for a resident pastor, and he usually lives in a near-by town or city and visits two or more churches on successive Sabbaths. City churches are better supplied, as a rule, in both building and other equipment. The structures quite frequently are brick or stone with modern improvements, musical instruments, and other aids to worship. They are served by full-time ministers. Sunday-schools and other auxiliary organizations are better organized and led than in country churches.

1 World Survey, American volume, Interchurch World Movement, section on Negro Americans prepared by the writer.

One of the great factors, if not the greatest, in the development of Negro religious life has been the Negro minister. Although he has often been severely censured, he has, nevertheless, been a real leader of his people. Even if he has appealed to their emotions, he has also soothed their sorrows. If he has played upon their imagination, he has also given them inspiration and hope in the face of discouragement and earthly trials. If he has unduly stirred their feelings, he has also preached to them patient forbearance in the face of provocations. It may be true that he has not generally been equipped with adequate knowledge of the Bible, of church history, and of the duties and requirements of ministers or priests, yet he has often preached with a natural eloquence that has lifted his hearers out of the commonplace; he has ministered to them with a spontaneous grace that has sent them on their way with rejoicing in the hope of a brighter future and with power to live a better daily life. When all is said, scattered here and there among the ministers of the Negro people there have been and are men of character and knowledge who have gone about their work with an unselfish devotion which will bear comparison with the ministers of the Cross anywhere.

One significant index of Negro religious advancement has been the growth of the Young Men's Christian Association and Young Women's Christian Association. Among the men, 45 city associations were reported in 1920. Of these, 10 were in Southern and border cities. There were 15 additional industrial associations connected with plants where Negroes were employed. There were 7 international secretaries, 100 local secretaries, 20,000 members, and property valued at more than $2,000,000. Among' the women, were reported 49 associations and 4 affiliated clubs of colored women, 12 national and 85 local workers, and a membership of 23,683. The Negro takes his religion as the dominating fact and factor in his life. If, therefore, Christian America can rise with enthusiasm to meet these aspirations of a people struggling to reach the higher things of life, the churches can be made a most powerful factor in the advancement of the people and the promotion of brotherly cooperation between the races. Here, then, in the changed conditions of the Negro in agriculture, in industry, in business, and in the professions; in his educational achievements, in his homes, churches, and the community, we have new situations calling for a new set of feelings, attitudes, and habits of action in race relations.