African-American Religion: A Documentary History Project
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African-American Religion
A Historical Interpretation with Representative Documents

African Americans and Billy Sunday in Atlanta (November–December 1917)
(Working Draft, July 2004)

Copyright notice:
Excerpted from African-American Religion: A Historical Interpretation with Representative Documents, edited by David W. Wills and Albert J. Raboteau (emeritus), to be published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2006 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press.


     In November 1917 the white Presbyterian evangelist Billy Sunday (1862–1935) brought his revival campaign to Atlanta. Sunday was famous throughout the North and Middle West for his exuberant, down-to-earth, often humorous preaching, but this event was his first extended public appearance in the Deep South, where Jim Crow reigned. At first uncertain how—if at all—to include black Atlanta in his campaign, Sunday eventually chose to hold special meetings for African Americans. The city’s Colored Evangelical Ministers’ Union actively encouraged and energetically supported these plans. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s maternal grandfather, Adam Daniel Williams (1863–1931), was among the black clergy who were prominently involved in Sunday’s segregated meetings for blacks. Some black leaders in Atlanta, whose views were most pointedly expressed by the Atlanta Independent, fiercely attacked those African-American clergy who supported these meetings. Still, for nearly two months, from November 4 to December 23, a series of meetings were held for blacks as well as whites, and black choirs were eventually included in some of Sunday’s whites-only meetings. Some Atlantans, black as well as white, were convinced at the end of the campaign that it would have a positive, lasting effect on race relations in the city.1

     When William Ashby Sunday arrived in Atlanta, he was America’s leading evangelist, working in a team that included his wife and many others skilled at making arrangements, handling publicity, and assisting on the stage. An advance group had put up a tabernacle in a part of the city where a fire had cleared a large section, a tabernacle built to accommodate 12,000 people. Sunday held meetings almost every day, sometimes two or three times a day, linking the themes of repentance and conversion with current issues of the time. He strongly supported the prohibition of the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors, illegal in Georgia since 1907 (the law was strengthened there in 1917), and actively promoted its adoption nationwide—something successfully, if temporarily, achieved in 1920.2 He also supported the war in Europe, which the United States had joined in April 1917. Black soldiers in training at nearby Camp Gordon were a significant presence at the meetings. In Sunday’s addresses to blacks, he added another theme: he decried the current migration of southern blacks to the North and urged them to stay in the South.

     Billy Sunday reputedly knew little about the situation of blacks in the South when he came to Atlanta (though he was long accustomed to adapting his campaigns to the practices of racial segregation) and apparently at first had no plans to preach to African Americans.3 According to the black clergyman Henry Hugh Proctor (1868–1933), nationally-known pastor of Atlanta’s First Congregational Church, “the practical workers of both races in the city” agreed to this arrangement, though it polarized Atlanta’s blacks.4 Who initiated the change in this policy is unclear, but it probably originated in Atlanta rather than within the Sunday organization.5 Once the decision to hold special meetings for blacks was made, Sunday visited local black colleges, speaking to faculty and students as well as to others in the city, in order to learn more about the situation. A useful contact was the Reverend Proctor, whose First Congregational Church was tied to Atlanta University and home to the city’s black elite. A graduate of Fisk University and Yale Divinity School, Proctor had turned First Congregational into an “institutional” church, one that provided resources for the city’s entire black community. The central role in organizing the black meetings was taken, however, by the Evangelical Ministers’ Union, which included pastors of some of the leading black Baptist and Methodist congregations in the city. Particularly prominent were two black Baptist pastors who had frequently collaborated in other enterprises, Peter James Bryant of the prestigious Wheat Street Baptist Church and A. D. Williams of Ebenezer. Others included Richard H. Singleton, pastor of Big Bethel, the leading A.M.E. church in Atlanta, William A. Fountain of Morris Brown College, W. H. Nelson of Butler Street C.M.E. Church, and E. F. Johnson of Reed Street Baptist.6

     The first big meeting for blacks was announced for Monday evening, November 19, at the tabernacle. The Evangelical Ministers’ Union issued a signed appeal that announced their support of Sunday’s evangelizing campaign and asked white clergy and employers to encourage blacks to attend. Sunday himself issued a statement asking white employers to urge their black employees to go to the meeting and to let them off early to do so. The Atlanta Constitution said that 15,000 blacks were expected to attend, even though the tabernacle was built to hold only 12,000. The article also said that Sunday “is going to deliver a special sermon that is now being prepared for the occasion.” No whites would be admitted other than reporters and a few ministers.7

     As predicted, 15,000 blacks turned out for that first meeting. A choir of 1,000 voices drawn primarily from Atlanta’s black colleges sang. When Billy Sunday came to the pulpit, he spoke first on race relations, pleading for more cooperation between the races. He noted the progress blacks had made in the South since Emancipation and advised against moving north. Liquor, he said, was behind the South’s racial troubles, adding, “The south is as naturally your home as Alaska is the home of the Eskimo.” The next day, an editorial in the Constitution called the special address “an epochal utterance” that should be studied by whites as well as blacks for its call that whites “accord the negro fair and just treatment” in return for blacks’ “good citizenship.” The formal sermon was on repentance.8

     Meanwhile, editorials in the Atlanta Independent, a black newspaper edited by Benjamin Jefferson Davis, Sr. (1870–1945), the city’s most influential black journalist, denounced Sunday’s segregation policy and called on Billy Sunday to preach racial equality instead. The editorials also called on blacks to boycott Sunday’s meetings. Accounts from the major daily newspapers indicate that after the first meeting for blacks, black attendance did in fact diminish, but, as the newspapers also indicated, cold weather was perhaps the cause; white attendance decreased as well. The Independent’s editorials went on to attack the black ministers who supported and took part in Sunday’s revival meetings. The notoriously contentious Davis had been criticizing the black clergy for years. He was particularly critical of Proctor (whose congregation he regarded as a club of light-skinned elitists) and had in recent years been feuding with Bryant and Williams over the recent split in the National Baptist Convention. It was typical of Davis’s polemical style that he also published an article that suggested black ministers hold meetings for whites only and another that included a mock prayer of a black preacher containing the statement, “We know by practice and precept that we are an inferior race.” Accompanying the articles were derisive political cartoons of the segregated meetings and the Jim Crow preachers. The reaction from blacks to this criticism was vigorous. According to the Independent’s gleeful report, which referred to the hostile reactions in two black Atlanta newspapers and in sermons by black preachers, Davis was asked to leave town.9

     Reaction from the white press to Sunday’s meetings for blacks was by contrast overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Reporters focused particularly on the singing by the black choirs and the audience as well, describing in detail how particular songs were delivered and how moving they were. The press coverage also took note of the ways the black audiences responded during the course of the sermons, the calls of “Amen” and “That’s right” and the occasional shouting. In describing the first meeting for blacks, the Constitution reported Sunday’s reaction to these outcries:

Bill is usually a stickler for silence on the part of the congregation when he is preaching, even to the extent of having Rody deliver a regular lecture on the art of coughing. But when the “Amens” and the shoutin’ greeted Billy’s ears, he took one look and said:
     “This is your meetin’!”

The Atlanta Georgian ran an interview with a white Presbyterian minister in Atlanta, Richard Orme Flinn, who claimed that Sunday had addressed more blacks under one roof than any white man ever before and that the result of his talk “will mean a closer sympathy between the negroes and the whites in the South.” Flinn went on to suggest that while blacks did not usually appreciate a white minister talking religion to them, there was complete support for Sunday.10

     If the musical legacy of Sunday’s meetings in Atlanta was primarily a matter of enhanced white appreciation for the virtuosity of black singing, it also included important memories for black participants as well. Among those present at the tabernacle for the first meeting for blacks on November 19 was Thomas A. Dorsey (1899–1993), who in the late ’20s and early ’30s would transform the world of black religious music and become the most celebrated black gospel songwriter of the mid-twentieth century. By 1917, Dorsey, a Georgian who had moved with his family to Atlanta around the time he was ten, was spending his summers in Chicago, but he came back to the South when cold weather threatened. He later recalled how the audience had responded when Sunday took off his coat and loosened his collar. “It must have been just a gesture,” he thought, “but the people went wild.” He was also impressed by Homer Rodeheaver and his “sweet trombone.” Later, in Chicago, they would become good friends. Sunday apparently did not, however, move the young Dorsey, a Baptist preacher’s son, to hit the sawdust trail himself. Dorsey, at least, dated his conversion only from an experience at the annual meeting of the National Baptist Convention in 1921.11

     Four additional meetings for blacks took place in the tabernacle on Saturday evenings, December 1, 8, 15, and 22; some whites attended these as well. On December 6, in reaction to the positive response to the music at the first two meetings for blacks, Sunday’s team decided to present black choirs to a whites-only meeting. The audience that Thursday night was the largest since Sunday began preaching in the city, and according to the Constitution “no musical organization that has ever played before an Atlanta audience, not excepting grand opera, was ever accorded a more spontaneous or a more generous demonstration of approval.” Black pastors I. N. Fitzpatrick, P. James Bryant, E. P. Johnson, A. D. Williams, and H. H. Proctor took part in the December meetings for blacks, with both Bryant and Williams getting good coverage for their fund-raising prowess—never a small matter in a Sunday campaign. Late in the campaign the Evangelical Ministers’ Union issued a special call to blacks to come hear Sunday’s famous “Booze Sermon” on December 15: at the meeting on December 8 an unidentified black minister had publicly asked Sunday for this sermon, observing that though it was usually given to men only, he felt black women needed it too.12

     Billy Sunday finished his Atlanta crusade on December 23. In Sunday’s papers are two letters of appreciation for his work. The black Evangelical Ministers’ Association, calling him “this gospel dynamo,” presented Sunday with a formal resolution of thanks at their final meeting on December 22. And a testimonial by Lula R. Rhodes, of Reed Street Baptist Church, told him how much his meetings had meant to her. She observed that “it is not a ‘put on’ that he enjoys being with colored people. You feel perfectly at home in his presence.” She had been pleased to shake the hand of the former president William Taft but with Sunday “I felt that I had shaken hands with one greater than Taft.” For her, evidence that he cared for all people came from the story of his visit to the widow of the evangelist Sam Jones: during dinner he went into the kitchen to thank the black servants because he knew they wanted to meet him. “It does not take anything except the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ to solve this race problem and such men as Mr. Sunday to spread it abroad,” she said, and concluded her testimonial by noting that her pastor, E. P. Johnson, had told her that Billy Sunday was the greatest preacher known.13

     An article about Sunday that H. H. Proctor had written midway through the campaign appeared in the weekly Congregationalist and Advance, published in Boston, on December 27. Writing on December 10, after Sunday had preached three of his five sermons to blacks, Proctor praised his accomplishment. He described Sunday’s first address to blacks, pointing out that “half a thousand” shook the evangelist’s hand, “unquestionably the greatest number of black people that ever gave their hand to a white man on a similar occasion.” Proctor noted that most significant of all was Sunday’s appeal for “co-operation between the races.” In consequence, wrote Proctor, “leaders among the colored people were distinctly of the opinion that a better feeling had been engendered between the races.” The proof of this was the huge white audience that came out for a meeting that featured a black choir. “Who knows but that in the present revolt against German music Mr. Sunday has opened the way for the development of the true American music and has forged the link that will eventually bind the races together in the South?” (Proctor had written his Yale Divinity School thesis on the theology of the songs of the slaves.) Proctor’s article later received a larger audience when it was summarized and quoted at length in the widely-distributed Current Opinion for March 1918.14

     Sunday’s image as a promoter of racial harmony did not, however, go unchallenged. Back in 1915, when Sunday was about to come to Washington, D.C., the scholarly black pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church there, Francis J. Grimké, had sent Sunday a letter asking him to speak against race prejudice: “The Christianity which you possess,” he wrote, “seems to have sufficient power in it to stiffen up a man’s backbone and to take out of him the craven spirit that fears the face of man.” Sunday never replied. In March 1918, Grimké spoke out after the end of Sunday’s two-month crusade in Washington. It had started just two weeks after the close of the Atlanta campaign. For all Sunday’s denouncing of sins, Grimké said, he never mentioned “rotten, stinking, hell-born race prejudice.” “It is pitiable,” Grimké continued, “when we think of the thousands of white men in this country, claiming to be ministers of the gospel,—claiming to be ambassadors of God, representatives of Jesus Christ; and yet sitting down quietly in the midst of this spreading leprosy of race prejudice, and doing nothing to stay its ravages, content to have it spread, and to curse, as it is doing, both races,—embittering the Negro and debasing the white man.” According to Roger Bruns, Billy Sunday’s crusade in Richmond, Virginia, later in 1918 at first made no provision for blacks, and when he finally agreed to allow blacks to sit in the balcony for a single meeting, the local black newspaper called for a boycott and only twenty-one people showed up. Though Sunday in later years occasionally preached in black churches around the country, he never again held meetings with blacks comparable to those in Atlanta.15


     1. Useful accounts of Billy Sunday’s stay in Atlanta include: William G. McLoughlin, Jr., Billy Sunday Was His Real Nam e (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955), 272–73; Lyle W. Dorsett, Billy Sunday and the Redemption of America (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1991), 97–98, 153–54; Roger A. Bruns, Preacher: Billy Sunday and Big-Time American Evangelism (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992), 225–47. [return to text]

     2. John Dittmer, Black Georgia in the Progressive Era 1900–1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980), 112–13. [return to text]

     3. Though it seems not to have been mined by scholars working on Sunday, the black press, both general and religious, has a good deal of commentary on Sunday’s capitulation to Jim Crow. A writer in the Chicago Defender claimed in October 1915 that Sunday had “even had the nerve to draw the color line in his tabernacle” during a recent campaign in Omaha, while another report said that a “colored choir” initially invited to participate in one of his “western” revivals was “told it was not wanted”—though Sunday claimed this was not his decision. J. William Shields, “Billy Sunday Draws the Color Line,” Chicago Defender, October 2, 1915, 3; untitled editorial, Indianapolis Freeman, September 11, 1915, 4. Other attacks lamented his failure to attack racial injustice directly. See, for example, “The Crucified Christ: Race and Right,” Crisis 10, no. 5 (September 1915): 224–25. [return to text]

     4. “It was tacitly agreed between the practical workers of both races in the city that we should refrain from putting upon these meetings the burden of the solution of this great problem [i.e., segregation]. Accordingly the meetings began with no provision for the attendance of the colored people, save the ministers. It was felt that for black and white penitents to come down together would be an impossible undertaking under the circumstances.” H. H. Proctor, “Billy Sunday in a New Role: A Peacemaker Between the Races in the South,” Congregationalist and Advance 111, no. 52 (December 27, 1917): 933–34. [return to text]

     5. Various accounts credit, respectively, the Sunday campaign, a group of Atlanta whites, and black clergy. William G. McLoughlin, Jr., Billy Sunday Was His Real Name, 272–73, reports that Sunday and his associates had extended discussions about how to adapt to racial segregation in Atlanta, settling finally on the policy of separate meetings—a pattern adhered to in the late nineteenth century by Dwight Moody. The Atlanta Constitution claimed that special services for blacks were “the result of efforts that were made by a number of white citizens of Atlanta,” who met with the city’s black Evangelical Ministers Union and got a committee formed to collaborate with the Sunday organization to develop plans “for work among the negroes much like that which is being done among the white people of the city” (“Negroes to Fill Big Tabernacle,” November 15, 1917, 2). The black Atlanta Independent reported that a minority of three on the local white committee hosting Sunday’s campaign had pressed the majority to allow for separate black meetings, if this proved agreeable to Sunday, which it did (“McHenry’s Weekly Letter: Jim Crow Leadership,” November 24, 1917, 1). The black Evangelical Ministers’ Union claimed that Sunday’s efforts among blacks had occurred “by request of the colored Evangelical Ministers Union and by mutual agreement of the local committee and Brother Sunday and his staff”: “Resolutions from the Colored Evangelical Ministers Union upon the Invaluable Services of Billy Sunday in Atlanta, Submitted by P. James Bryant and Approved by the Union” [December 1917], Papers of William and Helen Sunday, box 1, fol. 26, Morgan Library, Grace College and Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana (microfilm edition, reel 1). The full text of the latter two of these documents is given below. Proctor himself may also have played some role in this process. Roger A. Bruns, Preacher, 228, notes that Proctor had spoken at a conference at Winona Lake, Indiana, where Sunday lived, as far back as 1908, and suggests that “Proctor had undoubtedly encouraged Billy to take his message to all the people of the country” and knew that Atlanta blacks would “rock a Billy Sunday tabernacle as it had never been rocked before,” but specifically cites no direct evidence of Proctor’s involvement in planning the Atlanta meetings. In any case, it seems likely that the change of policy involved all of these players, but with the initiative coming from Atlanta, not the Sunday campaign. [return to text]

     6. “Negroes to Fill Big Tabernacle,” Atlanta Constitution, November 15, 1917, 2. Rheba Crawford, in “Sidelights on Billy Sunday by a Salvation Army Worker,” Atlanta Constitution, November 14, 1917, 5, described a black minister at one of Billy Sunday’s whites-only revivals. On Proctor, see Bruns, Preacher, 228, citing The Correspondence of W. E. B. Du Bois, ed. Herbert Aptheker (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1973), 1:462; Dittmer, Black Georgia, 60, 63–64; and Henry Hugh Proctor, Between Black and White: Autobiographical Essays (1925; repr. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1971). On A. D. Williams, see Ralph E. Luker and Penny A. Russell, “Introduction,” in Called to Serve: January 1929–June 1951, ed. Luker and Russell, vol. 1 of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 1–18. The names of the members of the Evangelical Ministers’ Union are found in their appeals for Sunday’s meetings in “15,000 Negroes to Hear Sunday,” Atlanta Constitution, November 18, 1917, 11A; “Negroes Are Urged to Attend Meeting of Sunday Tonight,” Atlanta Constitution, December 15, 1917, 11; and “Resolutions from the Colored Evangelical Ministers Union” (fully cited above in note 5). [return to text]

     7. “Billy to Address Negroes Monday,” Atlanta Constitution, November 7, 1917, 1. “Negroes to Fill Big Tabernacle,” Atlanta Constitution, November 15, 1917, 2. “15,000 Negroes to Hear Sunday,” Atlanta Constitution, November 18, 1917, 11A. Billy Sunday’s special meetings for women were even more relentless in excluding men, at least during Sunday’s late 1916–early 1917 campaign; see Margaret Bendroth, “Why Women Loved Billy Sunday: Urban Revivalism and Popular Entertainment in Early Twentieth-Century American Culture,” Religion and American Culture 14, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 251–71. [return to text]

     8. “Negroes to Fill Big Tabernacle,” Atlanta Constitution, November 15, 1917, 2. The day prior to the event the same figure was again claimed in “15,000 Negroes to Hear Sunday,” Atlanta Constitution, November 18, 1917, 5A. Paul Jones, “Good Citizenship to Solve the Problem, Negroes Are Told,” Atlanta Constitution, November 18, 1917, 1, 4. “An Epochal Utterance,” Atlanta Constitution, November 20, 1917, 8. [return to text]

     9. Editorial, “Jim Crow Meeting” and [J. W. Davison], “Billy Sunday’s Opportunity,” Atlanta Independent, November 10, 1917, 4. “Davis, Benjamin [Jefferson ], Sr.,” in Dictionary of American Negro Biography, ed. Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982), 159–60. Gerald Horne, Black Liberation/Red Scare: Ben Davis and the Communist Party (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994), 17–26, 326–30. Luker and Russell, “Introduction,” Called to Serve, 11–14. Dittmer, Black Georgia, 61–62. “State Baptist Convention Convenes,” Atlanta Independent, November 25, 1916, 1. B. J. Davis, “What Has Ben Done to Adam and Bob That They Hate Him So,” Atlanta Independent, February 10, 1917, 1. “God Is Not Mocked,” Atlanta Independent, November 17, 1917, 4. “McHenry’s Weekly Letter: Jim Crow Leadership,” Atlanta Independent, November 24, 1917, 1, 4. “Negro Jim Crow Preachers,” Atlanta Independent, November 24, 1917, 1, and “We Is Gwine to Get the White Folks to Run Ben Davis Out of Town,” Atlanta Independent, December 8, 1917, 1 (editorial cartoons drawn by P. S. Cooke). “A Jim Crow Parson’s Fervent Supplication,” Atlanta Independent, November 24, 1917, 1. “Jim Crow Preachers Bagged,” Atlanta Independent, December 8, 1917, 4. [return to text]

     10. Ned McIntosh, “Rody Learns about Singing and Sunday about Emotion When Negroes Hit the Trail,” Atlanta Constitution, November 20, 1917, 5. Arthur Joyce, “Opposition to Sunday’s Coming Dispelled When Billy’s Presence Is Felt,” Atlanta Georgian, November 22, 1917, evening edition, 10. [return to text]

     11. Anthony Heilbut, The Gospel Sound: Good News in Bad Times (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor/Doubleday, 1975; rev. & enlarged ed., New York: Limelight Editions, 1985), 22–23, cites (apparently from an interview) Dorsey’s recollections of these events. He speaks of the occasion as occurring in Dorsey’s “childhood” and mistakenly places it in a “circus tent,” but there can be little doubt that it is the November 19, 1917, meeting that Dorsey was remembering. Michael W. Harris, in The Rise of Gospel Blues: The Music of Thomas Andrew Dorsey in the Urban Church (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), does not mention Dorsey’s presence at Sunday’s revival, but reports Dorsey’s return to Atlanta after spending the summer of 1917 in Chicago (48). He also describes, in more detail than Heilbut, Dorsey’s transforming experience of 1921, in which W. M. Mix’s singing of “I Do, Don’t You” played a central role (67–75). [return to text]

     12. “Billy Sunday Service Turned into Great Musical Festival under Spell of Negro Melody,” Atlanta Constitution, December 7, 1917, 4. “Entire Audience of Negroes Hits Trail Saturday Evening under Negro Pastor’s Urging,” Atlanta Constitution, December 9, 1917, 16A. “Negroes Are Urged to Attend Meeting of Sunday Tonight,” Atlanta Constitution, December 15, 1917, 11. Paul Jones, “Stay in the South, Evangelist Tells Negroes of State,” Atlanta Constitution, December 16, 1917, 1, 13. Ralph Jones, “Sunday Given Lots of ‘Speakin’ Juice’ by Negro Audience,Atlanta Constitution, December 23, 1917, 7A. [return to text]

     13. “Resolutions from the Colored Evangelical Ministers Union” (fully cited above in note 5). “Lula R. Rhodes Testimonial” [December? 1917?], Papers of William and Helen Sunday, box 1, fol. 26, Morgan Library, Grace College and Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana (manuscript edition, reel 1). [return to text]

     14. H. H. Proctor, “Billy Sunday in a New Role: A Peacemaker Between the Races in the South,” Congregationalist and Advance 111, no. 52 (December 27, 1917): 933–34; idem, “Billy Sunday As a Peacemaker Between the Races: How the Famous Evangelist Brought the Colored People of Atlanta into His Tabernacle,” Current Opinion 64, no. 3 (March 1918): 201. John Dittmer points out that music training in black colleges emphasized European classical music, neglecting black music as late as 1916. “Upper class Negroes were suspicious of black music,” he notes, “accepting spirituals but scorning the blues and ragtime, music of the masses” ( Black Georgia, 67). [return to text]

     15. Francis J. Grimké to Billy Sunday, Washington, D.C., January 9, 1915, in Francis J. Grimké, Three Letters Addressed to the New York Independent, Winston Churchill, Rev. “Billy” Sunday ( Washington, D.C.: n.p., n.d.), 7–8, SCP 22763, Princeton Theological Seminary Libraries, Princeton, N.J. Francis J. Grimké, Rev. “Billy” Sunday’s Campaign in Washington, D.C., January 6–March 3, 1918 (Washington, D.C.: n.p., n.d.), SCP 22772, same location; also in “‘Billy’ Sunday’s Campaign in Washington, D.C,” Addresses Mainly Personal and Racial, vol. 1 of The Works of Francis J. Grimké, ed. Carter G. Woodson (Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1945), 554–59. Bruns, Preacher, 246–47. [return to text]


     The fifty-one documents which follow come from the white and black Atlanta press, Billy Sunday’s personal papers, and an article by H. H. Proctor from the Congregationalist and Advance. The transcriptions follow the original texts, with typographical anomalies flagged in red.

1. Billy to Address Negroes Monday.

      Billy Sunday is going to make it just as rough on the dusky crap-shooter and other negro sinners in Atlanta as he is on the white people. Plans are being perfected right now so that Billy can get a good fair shot at the devil in the souls of the Auburn avenue and Decatur street crowds and all the rest of the colored race in Atlanta. The great evangelist will give his personal attention to this work in periodical sermons in the big Billy Sunday tabernacle, the first sermon of Mr. Sunday to negroes to be preached in the tabernacle Monday night, November 19. Dates of other Sunday sermons to negroes will be announced when the full details of the plans are completed.

      In the meantime the same sort of a campaign will be organized among the negroes as is already progressing among the white people of the city.

      There will be sectional meetings all over the city for the negroes; that is, meetings in different sections of the city, mostly in negro churches, when members of Billy Sunday’s staff will be present to address the negroes and assist in the work which negro workers will carry on.

      “Rody,” the chorus leader, will be on hand from time to time to find out how just is the reputation of the southern negro for singing, and Bob Matthews and Ashley Brewster, pianists at the Sunday tabernacle, will go, too, whenever they can be spared from the work at the tabernacle. Other workers of Billy Sunday’s staff will also take a hand in the work among the negroes. Neighborhood prayer meetings and other campaign work will be taken up.

      Organization work among negroes is already under way, under the direction of a committee of negro ministers.

Atlanta Constitution, November 7, 1917, 1.

2. Jim Crow Meeting.

      It always has been, and always will be the position of The Independent that the white folks will prepare Jim Crow accommodations for Negroes just so long as the race produces a Jim Crow leadership. Men would not make cotton, corn and other commodities to sell if there was no market for them; and in like manner, the white man would not offer the Negro second class or Jim Crow accommodations if the Negro would not accept them; and the Negro may expect to be Jim Crowed, buzzard-roosted, discriminated against, kicked about, kicked off the street cars and hauled on elevators with trash and garbage, boxes and plunder, so long as he submits to such conditions and grins at the white man with his hat in his hand.

     The Independent is informed that Billy Sunday will preach to the Jim Crow Negroes of Atlanta in the Jim Crow meeting provided for Negroes only in his tabernacle Monday night. Now, the gospel of Jesus Christ knows no color line. It is as susceptible to the black man as the white man. Jesus died for all; not for the white folk or for the black folk, but for every man who would seek him diligently in spirit and truth; and, if Billy Sunday can’t preach to Negroes and white folks under the same tent, at the same time, then he ought not to preach to either, and if the white people who invited him here are not willing to receive the gospel from his mouth at the same time that he imparts it to the black man, he ought to be strong enough to rise above race prejudice, race hatred and Caucasian sin and say, “I am going to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to my fellowman and let every one come that will and take of the water of life freely.” If he is not able to draw men unto Christ by the strength of the gospel he preaches, he is no stronger than the sinners he is preaching to and will not be able to lift them up. It is the office of an evangelist to life the people out of their prejudices up to the love of God, and it is not his office to make the gospel he preaches submissive to the prejudices and whims of the Devil.

      The Independent can not see how a self-respecting Negro can attend or take part in the Jim Crow meeting. If the white folk cant’ worship God with us here on earth, how are they going to live and serve God in heaven with us? If Billy Sunday can not preach to us all here together, what is he going to do when he gets to heaven and finds the thousands and millions of black Christian saints that slavery crushed the life out of, and the hundreds and thousands murdered, burned and prosecuted to death by white Christians? God is love and not race hatred. Jesus Christ gave His life for all men—not white men only. Neither Jesus Christ nor the Apostle Paul, whom Billy Sunday delights to quote, separated the people along racial lines to preach the gospel, but preached to all, for the message of the Bible is, “Preach the gospel to all the people; he that believes and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not, shall be damned.”

     A religion or gospel that discriminates among men on the ground of color or race is not the religion of the gospel of Jesus Christ or the Bible; it is selfish, it is puffed up and finds no place in the economy of soul saving.

Atlanta Independent, November 10, 1917, 4.

3. Billy Sunday’s Opportunity.

     That Mr. Sunday has the ear of the public in a degree that no other preacher has, is an admitted fact, and that this advantage gives him an opportunity that no other preacher has is self-evident and will not admit of proof. The fact that Mr. Sunday carries this great responsibility and wields this tremendous influence for good or evil among mankind will hold him severely accountable to his Maker for the example he sets.

     America is interested in Mr. Sunday possibly as much as Mr. Sunday is interested in America. We are not certain whether the public is interested in Mr. Sunday because it believes that he can bring it nearer to Christ, or out of love for the sensational; whether they are moved by an honest desire to find Christ in the pardoning of their sins, or whether they are moved by the same curious phenomenon that takes them to the baseball or football games or to the vaudeville show; but a tremendous responsibility falls upon the evangelist, and he has a splendid opportunity to successfully combat sin.

     We are going to concede to Billy, both honesty and sincerity of purpose, that he may see his plain duty in delivering his message in the Southland. There is no lack of preachers in Atlanta or the South. The pulpit is filled with men who thunder from Mt. Zion every day against the same sins that Billy Sunday is inveighing against each day; and they are leaving untouched the same sins that Mr. Sunday, so far, has not thundered against.

     The gospel of Jesus Christ is love, and it has no respector of persons. It denounces sin, whether among the meek and lowly or among the crown heads, princes and rulers of the world. Religion is love of humanity and reigns to serve humanity—not to the Chinaman, Greek, Jew, Negro or Caucasian, but mankind; and unless Mr. Sunday’s evangelistic work squares itself with these principles, it will fall short of the purpose of the Bible.

     It will not suffice for Mr. Sunday to invade the Southland and denounce adultery, fornication, liars, hypocrites, bums, hobos, rascals, scoundrels, crap shooters, tramps and loafers, and leave untouched the lynchers, the ballot box thief, the segregator, the discriminator, the Negro hater, the promoter of racial strife and the mob leader, who burns human beings at the stake because they are black.

     The people to whom Mr. Sunday is addressing his remarks, largely are just as free from the sins he makes conspicious by denouncing, as Billy is. The Southern white preacher denounces fornication, thieves, whiskey, gambling, divorce evil and intemperance, but he is eloquently, yes, deathly silent in the denunciation of mob rule, lynching Negroes, stuffing ballot boxes, intimidating, molesting and politically persecuting the Negro; he is deathly silent in protesting against prejudice, discrimination in the distribution of the public school funds, denying of the black man his rights before the law, starvation wages and the reign of terror and lawlessness among the whites against the Negro.

     If Mr. Sunday is sincere, and is a lover of God and humanity, he has a splendid opportunity to preach the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, that the gospel of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ knows no color line and that Jesus Christ died for the saving of all men who would believe on Him; that the black man is a common brother of the white man, and that the white man owes him both Godly and humane treatment; that before the law, the Negro is entitled to every privilege, every benefit accruing to the white man; that double sessions in the Negro schools are wrong and wicked; that the suppression of the Negro’s vote at the ballot box is sin; that the counting him out on election day is stealing; that the unequal division of the public school funds is legalized theft; that segregation is born of racial hatred and is sin; that the beating up and shooting down of Negroes on the streets is sin; that splendidly equipped school facilities for white children and death traps and dilapidated houses for Negroes is a misuse of trust funds and an act of base inhumanity.

     These are some of the sins that Mr. Sunday might thunder against. If Mr. Sunday is to help the community, he must first understand the local conditions and fire upon the hosts of sin, among the rich and high, as well as among the poor and lowly. He might address himself to the evils of Peachtree Street, Druid Hills and other fashionable residential centers as well Auburn Avenue, Decatur and Peters Streets; for all sin is abominable in the sight of God. Billy, you should preach loud and long that the burning of human beings in the South at the stake and the lynching of them in the East and West is a sin peculiar to white people, and is a disgrace to American civilization; and it is up to the South and every other section of our country to eliminate it from our social fabric and to establish securely before the law—an equality of opportunity in every section of our common country, for every citizen without regard to race, color or previous condition of servitude. But if you come into our midst and endorse segregation, discrimination and race hatred by holding separate meetings, preach to the Negro one day and at one place, and to the white people on another day and at another place, just as if the gospel of Jesus Christ had a respector of persons, God will not revive your work, and your great effort will fail in its purpose. If you white folks cannot serve God with Negroes, and you white preachers can not preach to Negroes and white people in common, how are you going to join together in heavenly praise in Heaven if your efforts succeed in saving black and white people on earth? Billy, you have a splendid opportunity to wipe out racial prejudice, race discrimination and hatred, and fill the hearts of sons of men with the love of God, love of humanity, love of peaceful racial relation, and retire from our section of the country, literally loving the races into a lasting gospel peace.

     There is not much of the old fashioned religion that you tell us about in hearts where racial hatred and racial prejudice live. Sin and grace can not occupy the same space in our hearts and souls at the same time. One will displace the other, and unless the old religion which has brought you a world wide reputation, and millions in money, gives you the faith and the strength to tell the ballot box stuffers, the lynchers, the race haters, segregators, discriminators, the political oppressors and the industrial monarchs of their sins, and that they must cease, or they will have no part with the righteous, God will not revive your work and your message will be just as fruitless as other cowards who preach to suit public opinion, instead of the Bible of the living God.

[J. W. Davison] 
Atlanta Independent
, November 10, 1917, 4.

4. Negroes to Fill Big Tabernacle.

     One of the most interesting meetings that the Rev. Billy Sunday will conduct while in the city of Atlanta will be the service next Monday evening, when the great evangelist will speak to perhaps more than 15,000 colored people in the big tabernacle.

     This is to be the first of several meetings that will be held by Mr. Sunday in which he will speak exclusively to the negroes, no white people being allowed to enter the building, with the exception of the ushers, tabernacle officials, members of the Sunday party and ministers. The whole great building will be given over to seating the thousands of negroes that will attend the meeting, and there is every indication that there will be the largest number of colored people in attendance that have ever been seen under one roof anywhere in the country.

     Mr. Sunday, who is especially anxious to preach to the colored people of Georgia, had concerned himself much about the preparations for the meeting Monday evening, and he is going to deliver a special sermon that is now being prepared for the occasion. The great preacher, having never preached in the southern states, is not familiar with the negroes, but since coming to Atlanta he has spoken to the faculty and students of three of the principal negro universities of the south, located in Atlanta. He declares that the negro is a good listener, and most receptive, and believes that he will be able to accomplish much good by preaching to them.

Choruses to Sing.

     The music on the occasion will be an especially interesting feature, and it is believed that Mr. Sunday and his party will be greatly delighted with the singing of the southern negroes. The trained choruses from Clarke and Spelman universities and the grammar school will be present, having been especially invited by Mr. and Mrs. Sunday, when the evangelist visited those institutions. Each chorus will have its own leader, but all of them will be directed by Mr. Rodeheaver, and some wonderful music is sure to be heard.

     The special service for the negroes is the result of efforts that were made by a number of white citizens of Atlanta, who felt that the negro should have his part in the Billy Sunday campaign, and who recognized the value of Christian work among them. These citizens caused a meeting to be held by the Evangelical Ministers’ association (colored), which embraces practically all the evangelical negro churches in the city and vicinity. The result was the formation of a committee that subsequently met with the tabernacle committee and later with Mr. and Mrs. Sunday. The plans were perfected for work among the negroes much like that which in being done among the white people of the city, and the negro workers are using every effort to interest the members of their race in the campaign that is being conducted by Mr. Sunday in Atlanta.

Will Flock to City.

     Atlanta is the center of negro education and advancement in America, some of the greatest schools and universities in the country being located here. There are many schools and churches also belonging to the colored race in and around the city, and Mr. Sunday could at no place in the United States preach to a more intelligent or a more representative audience of negroes.

     Word has been received by the committees that not only will the negroes of Atlanta attend the Monday evening service, but that colored people are going to flock into the city from all points.

     Mr. Sunday and the members of the committee believe it will be one of the most remarkable services that will be held at the tabernacle during the campaign.

Atlanta Constitution, November 15, 1917, 2.

5. Is the Negro a Jim Crow Race?

     In last week’s issue of this paper, under the caption, “Billy Sunday’s Opportunity,” we pointed out as plainly as we could the great opportunity Mr. Sunday has in upholding the great banner of Christianity, or the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ. We said among other things, that he had an opportunity to preach the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man; that the gospel of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ knows no color line and that Jesus Christ died to save all men, who would believe on Him; and that God is no respecter of persons, and all who worketh righteousness are acceptable with him, no matter what may be their race or color.

     We understand that an invitation has been extended to the black folks of the city and vicinity to meet at the Tabernacle next Monday night to listen to the great Billy Sunday preach the word of God. Now, we would ask what difference would there be in going to hear Mr. Billy Sunday and any other good white preacher on such an occasion? In our opinion, we have just as great and good preachers in the city of Atlanta as Billy Sunday, and there is only one difference in Billy Sunday and any of the others that might appeal to black folks, and that is curiousity. But it seems to us, in view of the great principle involved, that we would be paying too great a price to satisfy our curiosity. That has been our fault too long; We sell our birthright for a mess of pottage, and thereby make ourselves a laughing stock and an object of contempt and scorn by other people. Can we not see that we are playing second fiddle; that we are willing to be Jim-Crowded voluntarily? And if we do it voluntarily, why should we complain when we are Jim Crowed on the elevators, on the street cars, railway cars and in the court room, in short, everywhere?

     In view of the fact that we have some of the most Godly, most eloquent preachers that can be found among any people, why should we be called upon to desert them and our churches to hear any one after he has served his own people? Does it not make out the charge that we are a Jim Crow race? That we would rather go up in the peanut gallery to hear a white man than to go into a palace to hear one of our own race? Is it a wonder then, that we have Jim Crow cars on the railroads and the street cars, double sessions in our schools, while the white folks have only one session? Because we are a Jim Crow race, and are always willing and think we are doing God’s service when we are being Jim Crowed as will be done next Monday night.

     There is no compulsion—No one is going to compel a single Negro to go, and there will be nobody to blame but ourselves. But many are going; that goes without saying, because they are Jim Crow Negroes and would rather have that kind of treatment than any other kind. This is the same class of Negroes who would rather wear second-handed clothes worn by other people, than to wear first-hand from their own people. This is the class of people who will fill up the Tabernacle next Monday night. They feel honored in being invited to be Jim Crowed at the Tabernacle by Billy Sunday next Monday. They could not feel prouder and more elated, if they had an invitation from the President at the White House. It was the late Charles R. Pendleton, Editor of the Macon Telegraph, who said in reply to a charge made by editor Davis on a certain occasion, that the Negro loved to be Jim Crowed. And the Editor concurred with Mr. Davis: “Yes,” said he, “he is right; that Jim Crow places were prepared for the Negro, because he was a Jim Crow race.” Editor Pendleton was right and Editor Davis is right; and there will be no help for its as long we are willing to be Jim Crowed. In other words, as long as there is a Jim Crow race, it will follow as the night the day; that the Jim Crow race will fill the Jim Crow places. No other race on earth would submit to a thing of the kind but us. A Chinaman, a Greek, a Jew, a Jap, or Anglo-Saxon would not think of such a thing, much less doing it.

     Now, it is up to our ministers, who are our greatest leaders, to teach our people better—to teach them race pride, self-respect and the true principles of the religion of the lowly Nazarene. They should teach them that if, Jesus Christ was on earth, He would not feel called upon to hear the white folks one night and the Negroes the next; he would gather them under His wings as a hen her brood and declare in stentorian tones, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; and take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest unto your souls.”

     This is the teaching of Christianity as taught by the Bible; not Jim Crowism as the master taught his slaves, to go to the church after the white folks got through. It is contrary to the fundamental principles of Christianity, which teaches the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man; which teaches that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. And when we have such little race pride and self-respect as to leave our own churches and ministers and play second fiddle as our old mothers and fathers did in slavery time, we plead guilty to the charge of being a Jim Crow race. God forbid that in this Twentieth Century we should do such a thing!

J. W. Davison 
Atlanta Independent
, November 17, 1917, 1.

6. Every Home in Atlanta, Every Place of Business Reached by Billy Sunday.
Every Member of Evangelist’s Organization Enthusiastic in Saying This Is One of the Most Successful of Billy’s Fights Against Sin.
Record Crowds Hit the Sawdust Trail.
Nearly One Thousand People Pledged Themselves on Friday Night, a Record Which Has Been Beaten But Once Before.

     The second week’s meetings of the Billy Sunday Atlanta campaign begins this morning and Mr. Sunday and all his party are enthusiastic in saying that the campaign thus far is one of the most successful and promising in the history of the great evangelist’s work.

     The trail hitting, which has been watched for with curious interest and expectancy by the people of Atlanta, began on Thursday evening, when nearly five hundred men and women marched in a solemn line to the end of the sawdust trail and gave the evangelist their hands and their pledges for a better life. It was a most remarkable scene, and the audience was deeply impressed with the great power of the eloquent evangelist.

     On Friday evening when the high school children were given a special service, nearly one thousand people hit the trail. This was one of the largest numbers that has ever been registered at any one service during Mr. Sunday’s evangelistic career, only Boston, Mass., a much greater city, having a larger number.

Every Home Touched.

     The work of the Sunday system is being manifested as the people begin to hit the trail. Every home and every place of business in the city and surrounding towns are being touched by one or more departments of the Billy Sunday system. The stores, the shops, the manufacturing industries and the educational institutions are being visited by the department heads and their workers, and great efforts are being made to bring the people to the tabernacle where they can hear the sermons of the great evangelist.

     It is the most remarkable religious campaign that has ever been inaugurated in the south, and the meeting in this city is confidently expected to be of wide benefit to all the people.

Negroes Are Included.

     The negroes are not being left out of the Sunday campaign, and a special service, which will be but the first of a series, will be held for the members of that race tomorrow evening at the tabernacle, where Mr. Sunday will preach a special sermon to the negroes. Negro songs and music will be heard. No white people are to be admitted.

     The workers are organized among the negroes and the efforts of the white people, including the Sunday party, will be bent toward bringing a more religious influence to bear upon the colored race.

     Mr. Sunday expresses himself as greatly pleased with the Atlanta campaign, and declares himself and his party to be deeply impressed with the people of Atlanta and the south.

     Services will be held twice daily at the tabernacle during the coming week, beginning Tuesday. Mr. Sunday and party will spend tomorrow visiting the Bible school at Toccoa, where the evangelist will preach also to the people of that city in the country courthouse yard.

Atlanta Constitution, November 18, 1917, 5A.

7. Billy to Celebrate His 55th Birthday in Atlanta Monday

     Billy Sunday, the world’s great evangelist, will celebrate his fifty-fifth birthday in Atlanta tomorrow, and will be entertained in honor of the occasion at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Preston Arkwright, where an elegant luncheon will be served to Mr. and Mrs. Sunday.

     Another compliment that will be extended the evangelist is the trip that is being planned for him to the great Stone Mountain, where Gutzon Borglum is to carve the great confederate monument, the most gigantic monument that any man has ever attempted to cut from living rock.

     Accompanying him on the Stone Mountain trip will be members of the Sunday party, Rev. Richard Orme Flinn, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Venable, who will entertain the party at Stone Mountain; Mr. and Mrs. Frank T. Mason, Dr. and Mrs. J. M. Ellis and Charles Outlaw.

     Mr. Sunday will close his first birthday in the south by preaching a sermon at the tabernacle to the negroes of Atlanta and surrounding towns. There will be about 15,000 colored people present at the special service, and Mr. Sunday will give them a specially prepared sermon. The music on this occasion will be a great feature, and Mr. Sunday is especially anxious that the white people of the city, who employ colored help, allow the negroes to leave early in order to be at the service.

Atlanta Constitution, November 18, 1917, 5A.

8. 15,000 Negroes to Hear Sunday.
Immense Congregation Will Be Present at Great Tabernacle Monday Night to Hear Evangelist.

     Surpassing in size and interest any meeting of negroes ever held in the city will be the service Monday evening when Billy Sunday will speak to approximately 15,000 colored people in the big tabernacle.

     This will be the first of a number of meetings that will be held by Mr. Sunday in which he will speak exclusively to the negroes, the only white people who will be allowed to enter the tabernacle being ushers, tabernacle officials, members of the Sunday party and ministers.

     Announcement of this meeting will be made in all the colored churches of the city today. The colleges, public schools, missionary societies, young people’s organizations and negroes from every walk of life will become part of the immense audience at the tabernacle Monday night.

Many Seek Reservations.

     The committee in charge of arrangements for the meeting is being swamped with requests for reservations from ministers and other leaders of the race from all parts of the state who express a determination to be present.

     One of the most interesting features of the occasion will be the music rendered by a chorus of 1,000 trained voices. This will probably be one of the most unique occasions ever enjoyed by Mr. Rodeheaver, who will direct the music. The trained choirs from Clarke and Spelman universities and the grammar school will be present and form a part of the great chorus.

     Some of the greatest schools and universities in the country are located in Atlanta, and Mr. Sunday will be afforded an opportunity to speak to one of the most intelligent and representative negro audiences ever gathered together in the United States.

Appeal to Negroes.

     The following appeal has been issued to the colored people of Atlanta:

     With the approval and co-operation of the pastors, leading laymen and Christian workers, Billy Sunday will break his rule of resting on Monday night and is willing to be used of God to start his evangelistic campaign which it is hoped will work the same regeneration, reformation and transformation among the colored people as he is doing among the whites.

     It is true that the colored churches of Atlanta are blessed with competent, consecrated evangelical ministers, but even these welcome his helpful services for themselves as well as for their people.

     On Monday night the colored people from colleges, public schools, Sunday schools, missionary societies, young people’s organizations and from every walk of life will pack the tabernacle to overflow.

     Announcements of this meeting will be made in all the churches today.

     A union choir composed of at least one thousand voices will furnish music for the meeting.

     The Committee is being swamped with requests for reservations from ministers and race leaders from all parts of the state who express a determination to be present.

     A number of churches have held prayer services for the meeting. It is hoped that the white ministers, Christians and business concerns will give their hearty co-operation to the meeting by urging those in their employ to attend.

     J. T. Darsey, W. H. Ballard, T. L. Ballon, J. W. Williams, W. A. McClendon, W. J. Williams, Cyrus Brown, J. T. Johnson, A. D. Williams, W. J. Trent, L. H. Ingraham, P. James Bryant, J. A. Wimberly, R. H. Singleton, J. A. Lindsay, J. H. Brandon, E. P. Johnson, B. J. Cofer, W. H. Nelson, W. Q. Welch, J. F. Demery, W. Q. Rogers, C. H. Robinson, H. H. Coleman, E. H. Oliver.

Atlanta Constitution, November 18, 1917, 11A.

9. Billy to Preach for Negroes Only.
Tonight Is a Special Night at the Big Sunday Tabernacle and Fully 15,000 Are Expected.

     White folks are hereby put on warning that their presence is not desired around the big Sunday tabernacle tonight. Any one who shows his features will be promptly ordered to “move on” and if he refuses he runs the danger of being “pinched.”

     For Monday night is the big special night for the colored population of Atlanta to hear the great evangelist. Monday is usually rest day for Mr. Sunday, but today he will break his rule in order to have the opportunity of talking to the negroes.

     Every colored church in the city Sunday heard the announcement for the big meeting. Practically all of them immediately made seat reservations at the tabernacle, many for their entire congregation, and it is a foregone conclusion that when the service begins tonight at 7 at least 15,000 negroes will be there to welcome Billy.

     There will also be a big negro chorus of one thousand voices, comprising the combined choruses of Spelman seminary, the Atlanta university and the United choir. “Rody” will have a new experience when he leads this choir, but it is a safe statement that he never led sweeter singing in his life than he will tonight.

Atlanta Constitution, November 19, 1917, 1.

10. Good Citizenship to Solve Problem, Negroes Are Told.
Billy Sunday Given Enthusiastic Reception at Meeting for City’s Colored Population.
Tabernacle Is Crowded.
South Is Best Place for Negro, He Says.
And Southern Whites Are Negroes’ Best Friends, He Declares.
Praises Progress Made by Negro Race.

     Standing before 15,000 negroes, who crowded into the tabernacle to hear him preach his special sermon to the colored race of Atlanta, Billy Sunday last night gathered them under his banner as he had brought the white people to his side through his wonderful preaching here. Though he admitted his lack of familiarity with the colored race, he was there with some of the finest advice that was ever given to a crowd of colored people by any man from the north or from the south.

     Mr. Sunday’s address, prepared especially for the occasion, went into the heart of the negro problem in the south, and his words of wisdom concerning the present and the future of the negro indicated that the evangelist had made a deep study of the situation.

     Billy Sunday made a hit with the colored people present by saying that the race had made marvelous progress since it had been released from bondage, and his commendation of the negro and his ability paved the way for the good advice that was to follow. Mr. Sunday exhorted them to think more seriously of morality and Christian lives.

White People Their Friends.

     He told them to have confidence in their leaders, who, he said, were worthy of trust, and said that they would be wise to consider the southern people as friends who would not forsake them.

     The evangelist warned the negroes against going north for the sake of getting “drams” that are denied them in a greater portion of the south on account of the bone-dry laws, as he said someone told him they were doing, and declared that he considered it an insult to the race that such reports should be circulated.

     He said that liquor was at the bottom of most of the racial troubles that have been experienced in the south, and that the white folk in the north had no business to meddle with the relations between the southern white men and the negro. “I have an abiding faith not only in the willingness of the white people of the south, but I believe they want to lend a helping hand to the negro in his efforts to become a better man.”

     “The south is as naturally your home as Alaska is the home of the Eskimo. The south cannot get along without the negro, and the negro cannot get along anywhere in the world as well as he can in the south among his friends.”

Proud of Name “Negro.”

     “This is the first time that I have ever addressed such a large gathering of negroes. I use the word, ‘Negro,’ because I feel that a race that has made the wonderful progress you have, has a right to be proud of the name. Booker Washington wa sright when he said the negro should be proud of the name. No race in the world’s history has ever made more marvelous progress than the negro has made since his emancipation from slavery a little more than fifty years ago. The splendid showing they have made could not have been accomplished, had it not been for the fact that deep down in the hearts of the two races here in the south, there is a feeling of friendship and a willingness to co-operate for good citizenship. Good citizenship among the negroes means as much to the white people as it does to the negro. It elevates the standard of the community. It makes life safer, protects property and is the best security for the comfort, happiness and the peace of all mankind. A mean, low-down negro, or a mean, low-down white man, is a blight and a curse to both races.

     “I have an abiding faith in not only the willingness, but the desire of the white people of the south to lend a helping hand to the negro in his efforts to become a better and more useful citizen. There are disturbing elements among both races; some who are always trying to create trouble, but such people never represent the best elements, either among the negro or the whites. They are enemies of both race. But you can’t make me believe that the descendants of the slave-holding regime of the old south will be unjust and unkind towards the descendants of those hundreds of thousands of slaves who stood guard in the household of the women and children of the south while their fathers and sons were at the front fighting to keep the shackles on those slaves. History has no brighter page of loyalty or devotion than its record of the unswerving fidelity of the black slave phalanxes that stood guard over the helpless women and children and cultivated the fields of the south during those awful days of the civil war. In all that long period of strife the men of the south in distant battlefields knew that their loved ones at home were safe, and that the ever-watchful slave sentinels were ready to sacrifice their own lives rather than prove false to the trust which their masters had placed in their hands.

     “But those days are gone forever. The slave is now his own master, but the character that shone so brilliantly in the hearts of their ancestors must be inherited, and lived out by the sons and daughters of those, who now, as free men and free women, can view only with unbounded pride that record of loyalty and devotion, which so brightly illumines the history of your race and shows that your heart is in the right place.

Wonderful Progress.

     “It is natural that in your efforts upward you should feel that the progress is not as fast as it might be, but you compare what has already been accomplished by your race with the toil and struggles and hardships of other races, and you will see that your progress has been the wonder of history. Look at the Armenians. Four hundreds of years, millions of them have been crushed under the iron heel of the Turk infidel. For centuries their bones have bleached on the Syrian plains, and today as a nation they are almost annihilated. One million eight hundred thousand of them have been slain by the Turks. The Jews have been driven from Palestine, and for two thousand years they have sought shelter under the flags of all countries of the earth. Today they do not even own the country hallowed by the graves of Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the land where Jesus was born.

     “But you are here among the best friends you have in the world—the white people of the south. They know you, and you know them. They understand you better than you are understood anywhere else on earth. There is not one here, but if you got into trouble would send for a white man to help you out. No wonder that thousands of negroes who have gone north are coming back to their southern homes. This is the place for them, just as Alaska is the place for the Eskimo. This is as naturally your home as it is the home of cotton. The south can not get along without the negro, and the negro can’t get along anywhere in the world as well as he can in the south.

     “If you think there are things to which you are justly entitled, and which you are not receiving, the best way to get them is to strive to make yourselves more worthy of them.

     “You can depend upon it that all things will work out in time. The best way for a white man who is working for another to receive promotion is to appeal to his conscience, by making himself indispensable. Rome was not built in a day, and you cannot get everything you want in a day. It takes a month to hatch a turkey egg.

     “Your school facilities are inadequate; so are those of the whites, and when you think that it was only fifty years ago that it was illegal in the south to give the negro even the fundamentals of an education and when you see the wonderful progress you have made since then, you have every reason to feel proud and encouraged that everything is working out all right.

     “So, I say to the north—keep your hands off—and the white folks and the negroes of the south will work out all these problems in time. They will not forsake you any more than your ancestors forsook them in the stormy days of the civil war.

     “Base your appeal on the bedrock of good citizenship—do your part, and you can depend on the white man doing his.

Y.M.C.A. Work

     “I understand that you have already raised under the leadership of your ministers of your churches about forty-thousand dollars for a new Y.M.C.A. building for the negroes of Atlanta, and as soon as you raise fifty thousand, a twenty-five thousand-dollar donation is ready for you. I feel sure from what I know of the white people of Atlanta that when you have raised all you can for such a noble work, your appeal to them for the amount needed to complete the fund will not be in vain. One building of this kind will mean more for the negroes of Atlanta and the south, for this city is the center of educational efforts of the south, than all the joints in the city, and more for the race than all the negro dance halls from Washington to New Orleans.

     “Follow your leaders among the ministers of your churches and your educators. They are godly men and are giving their lives to their noble work. They will lead you to paths that will take you to a better life, and lead you to the certain rewards of good citizenship.

     “Some one told me the other day that one of the reasons that so many negroes were going north, was that Georgia had gone ‘bone dry,’ and they wanted to go where they could got their ‘dram.’ I consider that an insult to your race. If any negro or white man wants to leave Georgia because he cannot get booze here and get drunk, the sober and respectable people of Atlanta will escort him to the depot and sing ‘Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow’ as the train takes him away. I would rather have all the snakes that ever infested this world turned loose in a bunch in Georgia than witness the return of the bar-rooms to this state. I hope to see the United States become so dry that you will have to prime a man before he can spit.

     “You have had a strict prohibition law operating a little more than a year. In some counties they are already advertising the jails for rent, and are using some of them to store cotton instead of negroes. The county authorities can’t find enough convicts to work the roads. The man who formerly did the work with ball and chain in a striped suit, is now working as a free sober man, and is being paid by the day, and there are no bar-rooms in which to squander the money on pay day. I have it from direct authority that the judges of the superior courts of Georgia testify to the fact that in this year’s courts there are very few murder trials, whereas most of the time used to be occupied in the trial of such cases. Judge Ben Hill at the opening term of the criminal court had to adjourn the session because there was no business. Prohibition is responsible for these wonderful results, and when you take into consideration the fact that three-fourths of the convicts of this state come from the negroes, you can see what prohibition has done for your race.

     “So, let all the negroes who must have their whisky go to the booze-cursed states, if they want to. If you will get rid of all the drunken white men and drunken negroes in Georgia, leaving only the sober ones, you will find that the millennium has come between the white man and the negro.

     “Liquor has been at the bottom of most of the racial troubles and riots, just as it has been at the bottom of most all cussedness.

     “I hope you will receive these plain words in the spirit they are given, for they come from a friend.

     “Let me tell you again, that the heart of your white neighbor beats in friendly sympathy, and your best friend is the white man of the south, and if you appeal to his conscience and confidence, he will abide by the golden rule and ‘do unto you as he would have you do unto him’ if conditions were reversed. Then there will be a new birth of prosperity and happiness for the dear old southland.”

Paul Jones 
Atlanta Constitution, November 20, 1917, 1, 4.

11. Billy’s Negro Meeting Great Success.
Wonderful Melody As Throng Sings the Old Songs.
Redemption Is for All, Negroes Are Told.

     “Nathan and David” was the subject of Billy Sunday’s sermon Monday night to the negroes of Atlanta. The sermon, in full, follows:

     Text: “And David, said unto Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said unto David, ‘The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.’”—II Samuel, xii. 13.

     This, I think, is a part of one of the saddest stories in the Old Testament. Though it is marked with conflicting emotions, this alone is sufficient proof of the authenticity of the Bible, for if it were written by men uninspired by God, we would have no account of man’s sin and shame, especially if that man had been prominent.

     God puts it all in. Not only the bright side. Man would put in only the bright side, but God puts it all in. Not because He approves of it. Oh, what men and women of other ages did and how they were punished, and what will happen to us if we disobey His commands!

     What God does for one He will do for all. The plan of redemption doesn’t apply to only one individual, but applies to all. So when God inspired the Bible He put it all in.

     If man had written it he wouldn’t have put anything in about Noah getting drunk after he came out of the ark, or about David committing adultery, or about Solomon having 700 wives and a few hundred concubines on the side, and having old Brigham Young backed off the boards, or about Ananias being a champion liar, or about Judas, the miserable old scoundrel, betraying Him.

     You read the life of Robert Burns and you won’t see where he said if there was a barrel of whisky in one corner and a cannon in the other, and he knew if he touched the whisky he would be shot, he would have to go to the whisky.

     No, if man had written the Bible you wouldn’t have seen the sin. He put them in to show that even though man had sinned, if he confessed it, the Lord would forgive and forget it.

     The other is a feeling of sadness. One of the saddest things on earth is to tie your hopes to a man or woman and have them disappoint you.

     It is a sad thing to build our hopes on a son or daughter and have them dashed to the ground. Many a woman has stood beneath the perfume of the orange blossoms and given her life into the keeping of some man who vowed to be true as long as the skies and sea are blue and he broke them all and tonight she feels her disgrace.

     Many a mother has brought up her children and builded her hopes on them and they have gone out and murdered and assassinated all of her hopes until she drops out of her society and goes by way of the back streets and is ashamed and disgraced because they have the family name synonymous with drunkenness, adultery and robbery and every hellish thing in general.

     It’s a sad thing and all the agonies that wring the heart and almost annihilate reason, the saddest is to be disappointed in the people you expect better things of.

     Think of the man who could write the Twenty-third Psalm (Henry Ward Beecher called it the nightingale song). It sings its sweetest melody in the night of darkness and affliction.

David Was Great Because He Repented.

     When I read it, it seems to me I can see the very angels singing. David—the man after God’s own heart.

     An old infidel out in Iowa said to me: “Bill, if David was a man after God’s own heart, I haven’t much respect for God’s choice.”

     He wasn’t after God’s own heart because he sinned, but because he was decent and manly enough to own up that he had sinned and asked God’s forgiveness.

     If you were like him you deserve hell. You’ll be a man after God’s heart when you admit your cussedness and come out and want to trot decent.

     Sin is shaded by light. The more light the greater your guilt. I’d rather be a heathen in Japan or in Africa worshiping idols of wood or stone than be a man in Atlanta today and not be of God.

     I don’t have to go to Africa or China to find heathen. A heathen is a man who doesn’t believe in God, and some of the biggest heathens this side of hell live in Atlanta.

     Just remember that a heathen is one who doesn’t believe in God.

     It’s a greater sin for some men to do the same thing than for others to do the same thing, because sin is graded by light.

     It was a greater sin for David to do what he did than it would have been for some others to do the same thing.

     It’s a greater sin for some men to drink than for others. I never was possessed of an appetite for drink and was never drunk but twice in my life. That was bad enough.

     But I say I was never possessed of an appetite for drink, but then every once in a while I lose a piece of my temper. I have the same disposition I had before I became a Christian and I never have gotten over losing my temper and never expect to.

     I am going out just as fast for God now as I was going to the devil before. Instead of cussing now I pray. Instead of hitting the booze up now I pray.

     So you needn’t swell up like a poisoned pup and thank God you are not like some one else. How do you know you may not be damned for the very thing that you are thanking God you are, because you may have more light than the other?

     You say, “What! Sin graded by light?”

     Certainly. Jesus said: “Woe unto thee, Capernaum, if these things had been done in Tyre and Sidon they would have been saved long ago.”

     Jesus walked the streets of Capernaum and healed the sick and opened the eyes of the blind and He said: “You people are worse than Sodom and Gomorrah because you have more light.”

     So you people are worse than Japs and Chinese because you have more light.

     I have one of the sweetest pictures of the love of God I can find in the Old Testament. If you want to know how you can best resist temptation, I should say: “Keep busy for God.”

     Satan finds mischief for the idle hands to do and an idle mind is an instrument of the devil.

“No Trade” a Passport into Penitentiary.

     The reason so written after your names is because you are not busy for God. You sit around with your arms folded.

     The man that stands around with his hands in his pockets will soon be trying to get them into somebody else’s.

     No trade. Keep them busy. No trade is the passport by which ninety per cent of the criminals enter the penitentiaries of the country.

     David was living in luxury. He had obtained peace with all of his enemies. A little insurrection arose and instead of going himself he sent Ahab to quell it.

     And as he was walking on the roofs of the houses in the cool of the evening he saw a woman, noted for her beauty of face and her symmetry of figure, Bathsheba, and he thought of sin.

     No man or woman ever sins if they don’t think of it first. No man ever stole without first stealing in his mind. No man ever lied or deceived by his actions without first thinking of it. No man ever murdered without thinking of the murder first.

     The sin of the hand is born in the heart. You conceive it here and bring it forth there. So I say no man or woman ever sinned without first sinning in their minds.

     So he looked and thought of sin. The Bible says: “Let the wicked forsake his ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” An evil thought, an evil act, an evil character, and all is built on character.

     A man’s thought do not make him a criminal. A man becomes a criminal by his acts. A man becomes a sinner by his thoughts.

     You are a criminal when you act contrary to law. When you think against the laws of God you are a sinner. You can think against the law and not be a criminal, but you cannot think against the laws of God and not be a sinner.

     Moses said: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Jesus said: “Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

     Chastity requires purity of thought as well as acts. A lot of you don’t act, but you think and you are just as low down dirty as if you acted.

     How did God treat David? Did He uncork the vials of His wrath upon him? No! There isn’t a man in hell that God didn’t give a chance.

     He sent Nathan to him and Nathan told him the story of the ewe. There was a rich man and he had large flocks and one day a fellow whom we would call a hobo came along and asked him for something to eat, and there was a neighbor who was poor and had just one little ewe which was a pet of the children and the rich man ordered his servants to go to take the ewe by force and he killed it, made savory meat of the flesh and gave it to the wayfarer.

     And David was angry, and I can imagine him stamping his foot and crying: “I vow the man that did that shall surely die.” And Nathan pointed his finger at him and said: “Thou art the man.”

Old Prophets Were Not Like Modern Preachers.

     I’d like to have lived in the days of the old prophets. Those old fellows weren’t trimmers like a bunch of preachers I know today. If he was like those of today he would have said: “Just keep it under cover. We’ll keep it as quiet as we can.”

     That’s why God honored them in the old days. They told the kings or anybody if they were old sinners. Then David called in the words of my text: “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said unto David: “The Lord hath put away thy sin.”

     Note first, he sinned against his light. He knew he had sinned when he sinned and so does every one of you today. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Neither is ignorance of the law of God any excuse. You have a chance to learn and it is your business to learn. Every one knows when he sins.

     Second, He will forgive you if you will repent.

     Third, you can forsake your vilest sins if you yield to Christ.

     Note next, he sinned against his position as king. He influenced others to sin. He hurt his wife and his children. No man lives to himself alone. What you suffer, your wife and children suffer. Yet if you were the only one that was injured I’d preach just as hard to save you.

     But you’re not. No man can live to himself alone. I got up and asked about a girl. “Oh, she is so-and-so, her mother is so-and-so.”

     So many a child is ostracized and stigmatized by society and compelled to live an isolated life because he has the blood of a certain old disreputable scoundrel in his veins.

     A girl is handicapped because you are her father. And your sister hangs her head in shame because you are her brother and because of the life you lead.

     So do you. You sin against your positions in the home, in society, in commerce and in the lodge. You can do as you like.

     It was a great sin and a great repentance. I’d like to ask you for your definition of repentance. You’d say it was sorrow. No. You can’t find a man in the penitentiary who is not sorry. Not sorry because he has broken the laws, but because he was caught. So it’s not repentance.

     It isn’t conviction. If conviction were repentance everyone here would have been saved long ago. Lots of you are convinced that you’re living the wrong kind of a life, but you’re not converted. You’re not willing to take a new stand.

     If there’s anybody on earth I despise it’s a religious coward. So it’s not conviction.

Remorse Is Not Repentance Either.

     It isn’t remorse. Down in a meeting in Troy, N.Y., a bum got up one day and yelled, “Remorse, remorse,” and three days later behind a stale beer joint they found his body. But remorse was not repentance.

     Repentance is a change of mind which leads to a change of conduct with reference to sin toward God and man, and that you ask God for forgiveness through Jesus. Many of you have already changed your mind, but you have not changed your conduct.

     A man steals, but he stops. He is reformed, but he is not saved. In other words, a man will come down and say he is wrong, but will not accept Christ as his personal Saviour. Repentance means to turn your back on sin and live for the Lord.

     You cannot be saved unless you are born again. Nothing will take the place of being born again. Baptism and confirmation will not take its place. “Ye must be born again.”

     Over in the eighth chapter of Acts you find a certain rich man named Simon, who when he saw the joy Peter was bringing asked him how much it cost.

     And Peter told him, “Thy money perish with thee.”

     He showed him it couldn’t be bought. That fellow had been baptized. You can bet he had been baptized according to whatever the right way of baptizing in the Bible is, either sprinkled or immersed. There was a baptized lost sinner. Peter told him he had no part in this matter, that he couldn’t buy it with money.

     Now don’t go away from here and say that I am preaching against baptism, for I’m not. I’d be a fool to. Baptism is a Scriptural truth. I say that baptism won’t save you from hell and it won’t. I say the ordinances of the church are all right, but they won’t save you from hell.

     It’s faith that saves you and not water, or the thirty-nine articles of confession or the Apostolic succession. They are all right, but get them in their place.

     Keep Jesus Christ where He belongs and don’t try to back Him in on a side track and try to lock the switch.

     No performances of religious ceremonies will save you. You may go to church and read the Bible and know the long and short catechism, but you must be born again. Everybody that is born again does these things, but everybody that does these things isn’t born again.

     Orthodoxy of faith will not save you. No one has the devil beaten for orthodoxy. The devil has a lot of preachers backed off the boards. He believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he trembles, and that’s more that some of you old lobsters out there do.

     He believes in the Bible and heaven and hell. The devil believes all this, but he don’t live it.

     James said: “Show me your faith by your works.”

     Your culture and correctness of manner won’t save you. Why some of you are so stuck up with your outside appearance. Look at your heart. Some of you are just like some apples—so fine on the outside, but the minute you bite into them—bah—you spit it out.

     What’s worse than finding a worm in an apple. To find half a worm—rotten.

     No, it isn’t the manners that will save you. You eat your soup with a spoon and lift it away from you and eat it out of the side.

What God Calls Marks of New Birth.

     It’s universal. No man or woman will be saved unless they are born again. How can we tell? Let me give you what God calls the marks of a new birth.

     First, John ii. 29, “Whatsoever is born of God does not commit sin.” That doesn’t mean that I can not commit sin: can’t hit the booze, but that I don’t want to hit the booze. It doesn’t mean that I can’t sin, but that I don’t want to sin.

     It doesn’t mean you can’t sin, can’t make a mistake, but that you will not wilfully sin. It means if you fall in sin you won’t stay there.

     You let a sheep and a hog fall in a mud puddle. The sheep will bound clear of it, but the hog will stay in it and wallow in it. Their natures are different.

     The world can tell whether you are a hog or a sheep.

     Lte a man or a woman be born again and they’ll bound away from sin. But let someone that isn’t and he’ll wallow in it.

     Some church members are just washed sows. I’m just quoting Scripture: Peter said, “Some of you are like a sow, which washed goes back to wallow; like a dog, which goes back and licks up its vomit.” Oh, you’re shocked, but just the same you’re like the sow and the dog.

     Third, whosoever is born of God loveth the brethren. Everybody that is a Christian, whether he’s of your denomination or not.

     Now, what are you going to do? That means the Christian. Not the saloon keeper or the brewer. They’re no brethren until they are born again. They are children of the devil now.

     It’s God’s nature to love and you should love each other. Do you Presbyterians love the Baptists and do the Baptists love the Christians and the Christians the Methodists and the Methodists the U.B.’s? Do you?

     Do you love me?


     It puts it square up to you. If you don’t I’ll tell God when I get to heaven about some of the mean things you said about me down here.

     Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin. Whosoever is born of God doeth righteousness.

     I was in a Baptist church where they were extending the right hand of fellowship and they voted on one woman and all but one woman arose to give her right hand of fellowship. She said she wouldn’t because the woman came from a little mission section. And she had the audacity to call herself a Christian and yet refused to extend the hand of fellowship because a woman came from the submerged tenth.

     Whosoever is born again believeth that Jesus is the Christ. That puts a lot of preachers out of business.

     Who’s a liar? Anybody that denieth God is a liar. The Unitarians are not even in the kingdom.

     First John, v. 4: “Whosoever is born of God overcometh the world.” There are two classes in the world today. Those who are overcoming the world are Christians. Those who are letting the world overcome them are not.

     Would you rather go to a theater, card party, or Dutch lunch than a prayer meeting? Then you are not of God. This thing of just hanging on to a church membership is going too far.

     Every one in the church has a body and soul, but a Christian has more than a sinner and you’ll never be saved until you have it. I had physical birth, but I have a spiritual birth. A sinner has no spiritual existence. God looks on him as dead.

     It’s a great forgiveness. I want you to read the Thirty-second Psalm when you go home. It starts out, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” A great forgiveness. People try to cover their sins. Don’t do it. Come to Christ as you are and He’ll forgive you.

Story of the Man Whose Life Was a Desert.

     I had a friend who was a brilliant young fellow. He covered the Japanese and Chinese wars for a New York paper. He was on his way home when he was shipwrecked and the captain and he were the only ones saved.

     They stayed on an island, living on roots for a week and then they signaled a steamer and got started home. He got word from the New York Tribune and they told him to go to ’Frisco, so he went, and they told him to come across the arid country and write up the prospects of irrigation.

     And as he walked across those plains he thought of how they would blossom if they were only irrigated.

     Then he thought of how his life was like that desert with nothing in it but waste.

     He got to Chicago and got a job and lost it on account of drunkeness and couldn’t get another on account of having no recommendation. So he walked out one winter night and took his reporter’s book, addressed it to his father and wrote something like this:

     “I’ve made a miserable failure of this life. I’ve disgraced you and sent mother to a premature grave. If you care to look for me, you’ll find my body in the Chicago River.”

     He tossed aside the book and it fell on the snow. He leaped to the rail of the bridge, but a policeman who had been watching him sprang and caught him. He begged him to let him leap, but the policeman wouldn’t do it, and got his story from him. Then the policeman said:

     “Well, I don’t know whether you are stringing me or not, but if half of what you say is true you can make a big thing out of life. I’m not much on religion, but I’ll show you a place where they will keep you,” and he took him to the Pacific Garden mission, at 100 East Van Buren street, which for 13,000 nights has had its doors open every night.

     He went in and sat down by a bum. He read some of the mottoes like: “When did you write to your mother last?” and they began to work on him and he asked the bum what graft they got out of this.

     The bum flared right up and said there was no graft, that Mrs. Clark had just mortgaged her home for $3,000 to pay back rent. He told him he could sleep right there and go down in the morning and get something to eat free and if he couldn’t land a bed by next night he could come back to one of the benches.

     Then my friend got up and went down and accepted Christ. He was so full of gold bromide cures that he tingled when he talked and jingled when he walked.

God Gave His Friend Marvelous Power.

     He started out to give his testimony and he was a marvelous power. I met him some time later in an elevator in Chicago and he was dressed to kill with a silk lid and a big diamond and the latest cut Prince Albert and he said:

     “Bill, that was a great day for me. I started out with not enough clothes to make a tail for a kite or a pad for a crutch and now look at me.”

     He was secretary in the firm of Morgan & Wright. He is an expert stenographer. A newspaper in New York had written him to take associate editorship, but I told him not to do it, to stay where he was and tell his story.

     What did he do? He told God he was a miserable sinner and God forgave him as He will you.

     There are two verses of scripture I’d like to blaze all over Atlanta, and everywhere around. They are these:

     “Be sure your sins will find you out,” and

     “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

     One to startle you and the other to chase you to Jesus Christ.

     I didn’t know what He meant by saying He would cast my sins behind Him, but I know now.

     Twenty-six years ago He told me He would cast my sins behind Him and hold them against me no more forever. He would drop them in the deepest depths of the sea.

     Out in the Pacific ocean recently they measured and six miles didn’t touch bottom. No one can see what six miles of water flows over. I understand it now.

     If there is anything on this earth I despise it is the man or woman who will remind any one of the deeds of their former life, if they are not leading that kind of life now. Anybody who does is so low down he’d have to get a balloon to get to hell.

     God says, “I’ll remind you of your sins no more forever.” So what do you want to do it for?

     Don’t try to make yourself better. Come as you are and God will take you.

Atlanta Georgian, November 20, 1917, home edition, 9.

12. Rody Learns about Singing and Sunday about Emotion When Negroes Hit the Trail.

     Homer Rodeheaver learned a few things about singing and real harmony, and Billy Sunday most likely found out a thing or two about real emotion in “trail-hitting” when Billy preached his first sermon to the negroes of Atlanta at the tabernacle Monday night.

     Not before in the history of the south, perhaps, have so many negroes been gathered together for a meeting of any sort, and, by the same token, through a natural inclination and the urgings of Rody, no such harmony has ever been heard in the south, or probably in any other man’s neck of the woods.

     After the preliminary song service—preliminary is hardly the word, for it was a massed attack, but it came before the preaching. Billy gave the negroes his views on the proper relationship between the white and colored citizens of Dixie, and then he pulled off his coat and collar and preached for an hour, a rousing sermon, thickly punctured with fervent choruses of “Amens!” “Praise God!” and “Glory-be’s!” launched with a whole-souled earnestness that made them reverberate through the building.

Calls for “Trail-Hitters.”

     At the end of his sermon Billy called for “trail-hitters.” There was a moment’s hesitancy, a young girl stumbled down the “sawdust trail,” crying, and an avalache broke loose. For fifteen minutes, men and women, old ante-bellum “mammies” and “uncles” and little pickaninnies and negro soldiers by the hundreds filed up to shake hands with the great revivalist and pledge themselves to a square life. There must have been 600 or 800 of them.

     After the trap door was closed, people kept coming to the platform, and Billy lay down flat on his stomach and reached down to take their hands, and he looked around at a gang of reporters at his elbow and said:

     “Boys, ain’t it great!”

     Well, to repeat once more, there’s never been anything like this meeting, certainly in Atlanta, before. And to begin at the beginning: It was a meeting for negroes only, and only such white people as had business there were there.

     With the rain softly pattering down on the acre roof over the tabernacle, the big auditorium was practically filled at 7 o’clock, and the various college delegations and organizations were staging a hot competition in yells and college songs.

     Besides everydody else, there were delegations from Morris Brown college, Union church, of Decatur; postoffice employees, Clark university, the Trio laundry, Holmes institute, Morehouse college, Atlanta Normal, Spelman seminary, Gammon Theological seminary, Atlanta university, and a big delegation of negro soldiers who had come in on special cars from Camp Gordon, occupied an entire section on the left of the platform.

The Singing Starts.

     Rody started things going by asking everybody to stand and sing “My Country ’Tis of Thee.” Then he called for “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and some more of the good old-time church songs.

     A request of the delegation from Clark university brought forth a college yell that shook the building and met with a storm of applause.

     The Morris Brown college delegation fairly set the vast audience on its ears with their college song, entitled, “Morris Brown Gonna Shine.”

     The burden of this song, set to a good, swinging melody, was about as follows:

     “Morris Brown gonna shine tonight;
          Morris Brown gonna shine;
     When the sun goes down an’ the moon comes up,
          Morris Brown gonna shine!”

     And, believe me most sincerely, Morris Brown shone, for they could certainly sing that song. Rody wanted to hear it two or three times and the congregation burst into enthusiastic cheers.

Give Soldiers Ovation.

     The congregation went wild, though, when Rody called on the negroes to stand up and let everybody see them. When the negro boys in khaki—a whole company of them, maybe several companies—stood up the whole crowd stood up, cheering and waving handkerchiefs, and gave the soldiers an ovation which must have flattered them deeply.

     Rody had a taste of army life in the Spanish-American war, and he told the soldiers of how well the negro troops had acquitted themselves in that conflict. The mention of Teddy Roosevelt’s name got an immediate and very considerable rise out of the men in brown.

     But to get back to the singing.

     The chorus seats were full of good brothers and sisters who h’ist and ably support the tunes in Atlanta’s negro churches, and Rody turned to these and asked for “one of your real southern negro songs.”

     A young girl from Clarke university came upon the platform and, in the tenderest crooning soprano, led the wonderful melody of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” with a chorus of a thousand voices following her.

Beyond Description—That’s All.

     It would have been a good bet that this performance could not have been beaten for sweetness and harmony and rhythm, but the next song was “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian in My Heart,” that song with the great deep chords and the subtle bewildering minors! It was beyond description.

     At the end of this song Billy stepped upon the platform and everybody cheered at the first glimpse of the big preacher. The first crowd to catch Billy’s eye was the soldiers. He gave them a great big broad grin, and a wave of his hand, as much as to say: “Hey there, fellers!” The soldiers “got” him right from the start, and he and the Camp Gordon boys were acquainted.

     Billy didn’t rush into his sermon, though. He had been back on the platform for some little bit, getting an earful of the singing, and he was entirely willing to hear some more of it.

     Rody undertook the mighty easy task of teaching the negroes to sing “Brighten the Corner,” and made a big discovery about singing preachers.

     He called on the soldiers to sing the first line; the last ten rows the second line; everybody the third line, and the preachers the last line. Each crowd thought they were doing pretty well until those preachers, in a deep hell-fire-preaching, kingdom-come-praying, Sunday-fried-chicken chorus broke down on the last line. They made the rafters shiver. Everybody started a spontaneous cheer, and Rody made the parsons stand up and sing the whole chorus alone.

New Thrill in Every Song.

     There was a big surprise and new thrill in every song, though, for that matter.

     Rody called on the Spelman delegation for “the song that Billy liked when he was out there the other day.”

     The Spelman leader stood upon a bench and started “I’m Gonna Meet My Mother, Down by the River Bank.” The great crowd caught up the refrain, “I ain’t a-gonna study war no more.” Feet began to pat. The chorus surged upward. The basses made the very atmosphere throb, and when they had finished Rody called for “another verse.” And when they had finished the second verse Rody hesitated a minute, and then said:

     “Let’s have one more verse anyway.”

     Then he made them taper the chorus down to the veriest lullaby that could have crooned an army to sleep.

     Now Rody and Mrs. Asher are not the worst singers of negro folk songs, at that, so they sang a duet for the Atlanta negroes. “Heaven” was the name of it, and they got away with it with such faithfulness that the last verse wound up in a thunder of amens from the parsons’ corner, and a big tribute of applause from all over the audience.

A Work of Art.

     Then Rody and Mrs. Asher sang “I Gonna Sing and Shout in Glory Some o’ These Days.” The negroes recognized their singing as a real work of art. One could feel the rhythm of it, and everybody was keyed to the melody and harmony of the song. Suddenly Rody swept his arm over the audience and the choir and shouted:

     “Come on, everybody.”

     It was like unleashing a pack of hounds on a hot trail. The promptness and unanimity with which at least 5,000 negroes grabbed that chorus was not short of a psychlogical phenomenon.

     At last, however, the singing came to an end, and Billy began to preach[.] Billy was dressed within an inch of his life—high stiff collar, and everything. He lectured the audience first on proper co-operation between the white people and the negroes, and he talked some good, sound, horse sense, which would do a lot of white people as much good as the negroes, if they would let it soak in.

     But Bill talked prety vigorously, too, and by the time he got down to his sermon proper, beads of perspiration were standing out on his brow.

     He annuonced his text, and started on his sermon, but he didn’t get far before he stopped and “shucked off.”

     “I’m too dolled up to preach,” he said. And off came his coat and collar.

Straight From the Shoulder.

     Bill preached to the negroes straight from the shoulder, and told them what would happen to them if they didn’t go straight; how to get right with God and go straight—in short he dosed them up with good old time religion, good and strong.

     His sermon was repeatedly echoed with choruses of “Amen’s,” and audible voicings of approval of what he was saying. He hadn’t gone far, when a good sister, away over on one side, had a shoutin’ spell.

     Bill is usually a stickler for silence on the part of the congregation when he is preaching, even to the extent of having Rody deliver a regular lecture on the art of coughing. But when the “Amens” and the shoutin’ greeted Billy’s ears, he took one look and said:

     “This is your meetin’!”

     There are a lot more things that ought to be written about the Monday night meeting, but the clock is already getting dangerously near the dead line.

     “Ma” Sunday was introduced, and made a little talk.

     Mell Trotter, who was converted at the same Chicago mission that Billy Sunday was converted at and who is now running that mission, was introduced.

     Charles H. Gabriel, author of “Brighten the Corner,” and lots of other church songs, made his bow.

     Mr. Trotter’s army Y.M.C.A. quartet sang.

     In short, something was happening every minute and in between minutes, too.

Ned McIntosh 
Atlanta Constitution
, November 20, 1917, 1, 5.

13. Evangelist Himself Is Right.
Has Big Time.

     “I’m going to sing and shout in Glory—
          One of these days!”

     And when they do—when they do, that Heavenly Choir is going to sit up and take note of what is coming off.

     Because it will be some singing.

     White folks, I want to tell you something. Listen:

     You sing mighty well. You make that old Tabernacle rock on its foundations. My hat’s off to you. I never heard anything equal to you before—not until Monday night.

     But listen white folks.

New Thrill for Tabernacle.

     You don’t beat the negroes. You don’t tie them. White folks, you don’t even COME CLOSE! You can make that old Tabernacle rock on its foundations, and all that; but, man—when those black folks get really started, “Down by the River Side,” they don’t just make that Tabernacle rock.

     Man—they make that old Tabernacle get up and walk about!

     White folks, you ought to have been there; but I don’t know where you could have been put, except on top of the Tabernacle, and it was raining up there. The ushers and what other Caucasians were among those present were lucky, and lucky is no name for it. You ought to have been there—but you couldn’t have been put into that Tabernacle with a shoehorn, after the Afro-American population got settled. The ushers sat on the sawdust in the aisles.

     Atlanta white folks cooked their own suppers Monday night, or dinners, if it was that kind of white folks. Maybe they put up with a light lunch. They did without cooks, maids and butlers. They drove their own cars—if they went anywhere. Cafes were shy of waiters. Camp Gordon’s population was upwards of 1,000 off.

Everybody Happy.

     Atlanta’s black folks were out to hear Billy Sunday. And Billy Sunday was out to hear them.

     And let me tell you—they all were happy on the way.

     They sang, they cheered; they shouted in Glory. They said “Amen!” and “Praise God!” and “Hallelujah!” They told Billy from ever side that they were glad they were Children of the Lord—and Billy, who usually can’t stand it to be interrupted, grinned and then laughed out loud, and said:

     “Go to it—it’s your meeting!”

     They went to it. And finally they hit the trail. And they were happy on the way.

     They were happy on the way—and they went to it. Homer Rodeheaver never had a better hunch; he never will have one. He started out with a guiding hand, and little by little he turned the singing over to Atlanta’s black folks. He let them go it alone.

     Rody never had a better hunch.

Wonderful Harmony.

     Honestly, I don’t believe there ever was such singing before, anywhere. Where do they get it? Where do they learn it? Would they be able to sing that way, any time and place you got them together, or was it a sort of inspiration Monday night? And how can four or five thousand—and more—people sing together that way, in that acre of space; and keep the time, down to the quadrillionth part of a beat, the way the comparative handful of trained and drilled singers do it in the Metropolitan Opera chorus?

     I kept wishing that Walter Damrosch or some of those famous conductors of orchestras and choruses could have been in the press Monday night—I’ll bet nothing would have kept one of those harmony hounds from getting up there with a stick and volunteering as conductor of such a Harmony Special as he had never before heard swinging up the humming rails of melody, headed straight for the Pearly Gates of the New Jerusalem.

     That kind of singing. I never heard anything like it before. I never heard anything that came close. I never expect to again—until the Atlanta black folks pack that Tabernacle again and that old Sweet Chariot begins to swing low.

     And then I’ll be around there—I’ll tell the world, fair.

Billy Has Great Time.

     The Rev. Billy was around there Monday night. He was in the immediate vicinity, all the time. From the instant Billy bounced upon the platform and ran over to the pulpit and saluted the Camp Gordon soldiers—to an instant roar of delighted applause—why, Billy had them going. They had Billy going, too. Billy had what technically is known as the time of his life. Everything was right. Billy was right. The Amen Corner was right—how those parsons did sing and shout in Glory! Everything was right, even to the drumming of raindrops on the expansive roof.

     And everybody went to it.

     Before his sermon, the Rev. Billy put in ten minutes in a heart-to-heart talk with his audience—not TO them. They were with him, right from the jump. He talked to them straight, and they stayed with him.

     Billy told them there never had been any real trouble between white folks and black. It was just the mean, lowdown folks of both races that caused the trouble—and got into most of it. He said that he had heard negroes were leaving Georgia and going to States where they could get liquor.

Wants U.S. Good and Dry.

     “Black or white—if they have to have liquor,” shouted Billy, “in heaven’s name take ’em down to the station and put ’em aboard the first train, and send ’em along! We don’t need them in Georgia. Dry? I want to see the whole United States so dry that you’ll have to prime a man before he can spit!”

     You ought to have heard the Amen Corner then!

Among Friends Here

     Mr. Sunday spoke of the tremendous advancement made by the negro race since its emancipation. He said this never could have been except among friends. The negroes were among friends in the South. They were among the best friends they had in this world—descendants of men who left in the tender and loyal care of black slaves their wives and their daughters while the men of the family went out to war—to keep the faithful guardians slaves.

     “Do you think Southern men will ever forget that?” Billy demanded. “Never—and in your hearts, my friends, is a heritage of honor and fidelity that glows with the brilliance of the sun in heaven upon the pages of history.

     And then Billy said an armful.

     “The white people of the South understand the negroes,” he declared, “and the negroes understand their white people. And they get along together the best in the world—without any help, or any advice, from anybody in the North!”

     I call that an armful, and I reckon all of us had a whack at the applause about then.

Here Was Something New.

     Billy had been talking with a fervor that re-echoed from the distant walls, and he had just announced his text and got into his sermon when his coat came off. I thought the roof woul. too—but it was nothing to the delighted roar that arose when the athletic evangelist removed his cravat and collar.

     Stripped for action, the Rev. Billy went to it. He told them about David, a “man after God’s own heart”—not because he was without sin, but because he was MAN ENOUGH TO OWN UP. And because he quit his sin. Billy told them about the difference between remorse and repentance, and about that time his hearers began to get religion.

Amens Grow in Volume.

     There had been amens in abundance from all parts of the house, and notably from the Parsons’ Corner. Now they began to bless God properly.

     The fervent ejaculations didn’t bother Billy a bit. He may be sensitive to interruptions by coughing, but you can get just as happy on the way as you please. And they got happy on the way. Here and there they were getting religion, good and plenty; here and there, and then pretty much everywhere. And Billy got up on his toes and preached to them like a man inspired. I reckon he was inspired. He gave it to them, right from the shoulder. He preached repentance and washing in the Blood of the Lamb and the Old-Time Religion—and he had them shouting in Glory!

     Billy put on no frills and he cut few capers. He took off his coat, and he took off his tie, and he took off his collar, and he preached the Old-Time Religion—and he had them shouting in Glory!

     There was never was a shadow of a doubt what would happen when Billy called for trail-hitters. A girl from Clark University, the one who stood up before the multitude and led “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” came first and shook hands with Billy, and went over and sat down on the first mourners’ bench, crying quietly but with all her heart. The next was a soldier.

     And after that they came at the rate of a hundred a minute, and the soldiers, who had sung so lustily “We’ll hang Bill Kaiser to a sour apple tree,” went over the top in whole companies; and in all more than six hundred came to the front.

     The trail hitting was as quiet and thoughtful and orderly as at any of the other meetings. There was plenty of emotion in evidence, but it was all in tears. They would weep now, to shout in Glory later.

Billy Deeply Moved.

     Billy was profoundly moved. He worked harder than usual at the hand-shaking; and his words of blessing and encouragement were more fervent. He patted heads, as well as shook hands, and he smiled back nearly to his ears when some mother or father lifted a little, wondering, woolly-headed infant to confront him with a solemn stare.

     “Great meeting—a great meeting,” Billy said solemnly, wagging his head, after it was all over.

     They had delegations there—a dozen or so. The biggest delegation and the one that drew the biggest hand was that of the soldier boys. They filled one entire block of seats, and they came filing in to an absolute thunder of applause. Everybody stood up to see better, and the dusky warriors did not flinch from the scrutiny. They looked to be soldiers, every inch of them; and I know that when Rody waved to them and spoke of Teddy Roosevelt (frantic cheers) he was thinking of the boys of the Tenth Cavalry, who charged so gallantly up San Juan Hill, singing “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight!”

Praised as Soldiers.

     “We all know,” shouted Rody, “that there are no better soldiers on earth!”


     “I’ve been soldiering myself, and I know.”

     Loud cheers.

     “I’ve heard Colonel Roosevelt say so!”

     Frantic and prolonged cheering.

     “Now, we’re glad to see you, and have you with us, and what do you like to sing?”

     Rody found out. With not the slightest hesitation, the “boys” started into the Battle Hymn of the Republic, singing:

     “We’ll hang Bill Kaiser to a sour apple tree,
     As we go marching on!”

The Tabernacle Sways.

     How they did sing it! Glory, glory, halleluiah—how that deep-chested, gusty chorus came rolling out! If ever there was a song with a kick in it, that is the song. And the whole Tabernacle went rocking with its heave-and-swing, and the rest of the audience got in, because it simply couldn’t stay out, and everybody was happy on the way, and then some.

     Then there were delegations from Morris Brown College; and Clark University; and Morehouse; and Holmes Institute; and Spelman Seminary; and Atlanta Normal; and Gammon Theological Seminary; and Atlanta University; and Union Church of Decatur; and the United States postoffice; and the Trio Laundry; and if anybody is omitted, I’m sorry, because that’s all I can remember, and it seems to me there were several more.

College Yells, Too.

     They had college yells and songs, and one bunch, back on the platform, pulled something new—a rhythmic and extravagantly syncopated or “ragged” hand-patting chorus; and then Rody began to be inspired.

     Rody knew those people could sing—and he gave them the chance.

     Rody taught them how to “Brighten the Corner,” and they learned it in two minutes and jarred the corners loose from the building with it. Especially the preachers. Rody gave them a single line, and they bore down on it so powerfully that he made them sing the whole chorus.

     “Now, I want to hear you sing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,’” announced Rody.

     He heard them.

Girl Leads Great Song.

     A young girl came out on the platform, faced the choir, and sang the leading part in a singularly clear, high, bell-like voice.

     Then the chorus came down on it, and if what followed doesn’t beggar description, it certainly has it applying for a receiver.

     “I want to be a Christian,
     In my heart.”

     But that was after “The Sweet Chariot” had swung and swung and swung, and carried its occupants “up to the heavens.”

Spelman’s Song a Hit.

     Rody called for encore after encore, and I rather think the crest of the melodic wave was reached in a song started by the Spelman delegation. Rody called for “the one Mr. Sunday liked so well the other day; something about somebody going down to the river for something or other.”

     “I’m going to meet my mother,
     Down by the river side,”

they sang, a girl leading as before. And then they took it up on the platform. *** There was one magnificent phrase in the refrain where a whole regiment of mighty and mellifluous basso simply arose on their posterior limbs and walked about in it—man, they walked about!

     Then Rody and Mrs. Asher gave a demonstration in proof of Rody’s statement that they could sing that kind of songs, too. They sang “Heaven” to a thundering chorus of amens from the parsons’ corner. And then they sang:

     “I’m going to sing and shout in Glory,
     One of these days!”

An Impressive Moment.

     Come to think of it, I reckon THAT was the top note of the song service. For after the skillfully rendered duet had worked the audience up to the highest tension, Rody (that masterly stage manager) flung out his arms toward the choir and the whole audience and he shouted.

     “Come on, everybody!”

     And everybody came on.

     It’s just as I told you—I didn’t know there WAS any such singing.

     I’m not forgetting the Morris Brown bunch, and their pet song:

     “Morris Brown’s going to shine tonight;
     Morris Brown’s going to shine—
     Till the sun goes down and the moon comes up,
     Morris Brown’s going to shine!”

     I’m not forgetting any of those songs. I am not likely to. Nobody who heard them, as sung Monday night, is likely to forget them. Song is a queer thing, anyway. Officers say singing regiments fight best. And you know how Oliver Cromwell’s old “Ironsides” went down into battle, chanting the Hundreth Psalm as they rode—and you know what happened to the gallant Cavaliers when the jolt came.

     I’m not forgetting any of those songs of Monday night. Most of all, I think, I’m not forgetting:

     I’m going to sing and shout in Glory,

     One of these days!”

     When they do—when they do, the Heavenly Choir will know that reinforcements have arrived.

O. B. Keeler
Atlanta Georgian, November 20, 1917, home edition, 9, 11.

14. An Epochal Utterance.

     Billy Sunday, in his sermon to the negroes Monday night, sounded the keynote of the whole so-called “race problem” and at the same time pointed the way—the only way—to its solution when he admonished the negroes to “base your appeal (for better schools, better living conditions, and just treatment) on the bedrock of good citizenship”—then placing upon the white people the reciprocal obligation to accord the negro fair and just treatment.

     The sermon was delivered to the negroes of Atlanta; but it is one that should be read, pondered and heeded by every citizen of the south, white as well as black. It was a sermon to both races. In many respects it is an epochal utterance.

     It placed squarely upon the colored man the obligation to deserve before demanding; and it assured him that “if you do your part you can depend upon the white man doing his,” thus inferentially pointing to the duty that devolves upon both races and equally upon both.

     This is precisely in line with the contention that The Constitution and the right-thinking citizens of both races have been advancing for years; and if both races cooperated along the line of the striking advice of the great evangelist there would no longer be a “race problem” to solve.

     Mr. Sunday voiced the sentiment of every conscientious white man in the south when he assured the negroes that the loyalty of their race during the civil war will ever be remembered and that the white people stand ready to accord the last degree of merited assistance to the descendants of those who in that crucial test proved their dependability.

     The sermon was happily phrased to fit the occasion—candid, fair and plainly spoken. It had the ring of sincerity about it, without attempt at flattery, without hollow praise or evidence of labored effort merely to please. It was truth—truth delivered straight from the shoulder and driven home with the characteristic Billy Sunday punch.

     No negro heard that sermon but who, governing his future actions in accordance with it, will be a better citizen and more helpful to his race and to society in general, and no white man can read it without being impressed with the fact that it contains mighty good advice for both races.

     Considering the fact that Billy Sunday is a northern man, new to the south, only adds weight to his precept to the colored folk; and the clear insight into the colored man’s characteristics, manners of living and the conditions surrounding him in the south, of which the sermon gives evidence, reflects credibility upon the evangelist as a man of breadth, capacity and alertness to size up situations on sort notice.

     It was a strong presentation of the so-called “race problem,” and one that hits the nail squarely on the head.

     Undoubtedly it will do much good.

Atlanta Constitution, November 20, 1917, 8.

15. Opposition to Sunday’s Coming Dispelled When Billy’s Presence Is Felt.

     When the Rev. Dr. Richard Orme Flinn, pastor of the North Avenue Presbyterian Church, and chairman of the committee that was instrumental in bringing Billy Sunday to Atlanta, was out among Atlanta’s business men and professional leaders trying to interest them in the movement to have a Sunday revival here, he met with all sorts of opposition.

     Some of Atlanta’s most prominent citizens declared they didn’t want any such campaign, especially with Billy Sunday at the helm. They had heard of the criticisms of Billy in other cities and they weren’t for having any “religious disturbance” in Atlanta. Indeed, more than one representative of Atlanta’s “big interests” declared they would put up any amount of money to keep the noted evangelist “out of Atlanta.” They figured such a campaign would be “extremely harmful” and they “couldn’t possibly see any good results” from such a movement.

     All this was before Billy Sunday came to Atlanta.

     Ask Dr. Flinn now what is the sentiment among these very Atlantans who so bitterly opposed the evangelist’s coming, and he will tell you that they have become his staunchest admirers since they’ve gone to the Tabernacle and listened to his sermons.

Great Reversal of Sentiment.

     “I have never seen such a reversal of sentiment in all of my life,” said Dr. Flinn to me Thursday. “I made it a point to talk with the very same men who turned me down flat when I first took up with them the matter of bringing Billy to Atlanta, and I’ve found them bubbling over with enthusiasm at the results of the campaign so far and willing to do anything in their power to extend the evangelist’s influence and make his campaign felt everywhere. One Atlantan of prominence had declared he wouldn’t have anything to do with the campaign, wouldn’t give it his moral or financial support and would, on the other hand, do everything he could to oppose its success. That very man now has a weekly noonday meeting in his workshops, goes to hear Billy at every opportunity and has become a close personal friend of the evangelist.

     “Another Atlantan of prominence I have in mind pooh-poohed the idea of a Sunday campaign in Atlanta. He said I’d have to count him out when it came to a matter of support of any sort. But this man, after hearing Billy preach one sermon at the Tabernacle, has become a regular attender at the meetings and he told me only yesterday he considered Billy the greatest force for good in the entire country.

     “And so it goes. Those who had been Billy’s most severe critics before the evangelist came to Atlanta are now his staunchest admirers. I get around pretty much and take pains to inquire as to the feelings of prominent Atlantans about the Sunday campaign. I don’t find anyone, whose opinion amounts to anything, saying anything but good of Billy and his work. There has been a complete change of heart everywhere, and if there’s still a Billy Sunday critic in Atlanta, who has really heard the evangelist talk, I haven’t caught up with him!”

     Dr. Flinn says everybody likes Billy principally because of the noted evangelist’s sincerity. They like his straight-from-the-shoulder talk. They admire his physical and mental abilities. Before his arrival, Dr. Flinn emphasized, his critics based their opposition on what they had read about Billy.

Must Hear to Appreciate.

     “But you’ve got to hear the man to appreciate him,” said Dr. Flinn. “His sermons and his so-called slang don’t sound as cold as they look in print. He’s the most natural man I have ever heard talk. Billy says what he thinks, no matter who it hits or how it hurts. He’s against everything the devil’s for, and he isn’t afraid to let people know where he stands.”

     In Dr. Flinn’s opinion, the meeting for negroes which Billy volunteered to conduct on his “day of rest”—last Monday night—was one of the greatest triumphs in the evangelist’s career.

     “Do you know,” commented Dr. Flinn, “that Billy addressed more negroes at that meeting than were ever gathered together under one roof in the entire history of the country? That’s a fact. No white man ever talked to so many negroes before. And the result of his talk will mean a closer sympathy between the negroes and the whites in the South.

     “Negroes I have talked with are for Billy right off the bat. Usually they don’t appreciate a white minister trying to talk religion to with them. But in this instance they feel Billy Sunday is the strongest preacher they have ever heard. He hasn’t a critic among the entire crowd that heard him preach that wonderful Monday night sermon, so far as I’ve been able to learn.”

     In a nutshell, Dr. Flinn believes the Sunday campaign in Atlanta will be one of the biggest forces for good that has ever originated in this city. He considers the revival the biggest asset Atlanta has ever boasted.

     And his judgment is backed by a UNITED ATLANTA!

Arthur Joyce 
Atlanta Georgian, November 22, 1917, evening edition, 10.

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