Nannie Helen Burroughs

How White and Colored Women can Cooperate in Building a Christian Civilization - March 29, 1933

Nannie Helen Burroughs
March 29, 1933— Richmond, Virginia
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Excerpts from the message that was brought to the Woman’s Missionary Union of Virginia, by (Miss) Nannie H. Burroughs, Corresponding Secretary, Woman’s Convention, Auxiliary to the National Baptist Convention, at Richmond, Virginia, Wednesday afternoon, March 29, 1933.

  1. A Christian civilization must be built on understanding, helpful cooperation, justice and good will.
  2. It is built by praying the Lord’s Prayer and meaning it; by knowing the Golden Rule and applying it in our relations and dealings with all races.
  3. A Christian civilization is built on character and service.
  4. A Christian civilization develops and glorifies the inner standards of worth--the things of the spirit, those things which are human kindness, practical sympathy, understanding and helpful co-operation. Christianity looks for the best in humanity--discovers and dedicates itself to the development of it.
  5. A Christian civilization will not allow human beings to go to waste. It strives to attain one standard of Godly living for all.
  6. In order to build such a civilization the women of the two races should unite in a common effort to defeat all common enemies to Christian growth. These enemies are ignorance, selfishness, indifference, antagonism or race prejudice. The forces of Christianity should unite for better habits, better health, better homes, better hearts. In such an enterprise we need literature, leadership and fellowship. I have that explains this relationship in a finer and better way than I can possibly explain it. (letter) This is Christianity at work. Insert page 4 It is a happy illustration of how the strong can help bear the infirmities of the weak. This letter was not written for this occasion. Our fine white friend in Mississippi doubtless does not know anything about this meeting, but she knows God and she hears and heeds His voice speaking to her through the needs of the people about her.

We make much ado over Missionary reports, statistics and surveys. We chronicle the achievements of our Missionary organizations.

But you do not hear of acts of Christian women like this. They live and they are making invaluable contributions to the Missionary enterprise. Then too contributions of the things of the spirit are being made by many of the Christian women of the South who hire domestic servants. They treat those servants kindly. They pay them a living wage. They are interested in where they live and how they live. The [they?] love them for their fine character. They encourage them in the education of their children, and whenever discussions about Negro character and Negro service come up, their words of praise and appreciation help to create respect for the race. These Christian women are making a spiritual and moral contribution to the up-building of the Negro race and they are applying the principles of the Christian religion to everyday life.

You never get reports of deeds like the one performed by Mrs. Ellis in newspapers and magazines. We seldom sing the praises of Christian white women of that calibre and character, in meetings like these, But their influence is the leaven in the lump and their kind unostentatious service in human relationships is doing as much to build a Christian civilization in America as any money that is laid on the table for missions in China, or India, or Africa. Distance lends enchantment but we will build a real Christian nation when we begin at Jerusalem - at home.

This is no time to pat ourselves on the back and glorify in our achievements, because when we look about us we realize that in these problems at home--social, economic and religious, we still face the petty done and vast undone. But I rejoice in the fact that in spite of handicaps, barriers, and limitations, Southern born and Southern bred Negroes constitute the great majority in the field of National leadership and in that field Baptists have the majority.

I have time to call only a few names of Southern Negroes, and I call them to remind you that there are others just like them who must come after them, and if the two Races in the South ever join hands to wipe out ignorance, to remove misunderstanding, to glorify the things of the spirit, we will discover new + powerful leaders + will build here a civilization that will be Christian to the core, and have an environment in which both races can live and work together without making the White Race any blacker or the Black Race any whiter. (Illustration--The Piano)

If the South can keep on producing and sending into all fields of service leaders like Booker T. Washington, Major Morton, Kelly Miller, George Carver, Mordecai Johnson, John Hope, Max Yergen, Eugene Kinckle Jones, The Huberts, C. C. Spaulding, Lucy Laney, Mary McCloud Bethune, Jane Hunter, Margaret Washington, Charlotte Hawkins Brown, and men like John Jasper in faith and spiritual enduement and prowess, and like Mordecai Johnson in mental excellence, we shall build the Kingdom of God in the hearts of men and America will lead the world in a practical interpretation of the meaning of human brotherhood.

I pray that the women of the two Races will lead in this high and challenging endeavor.

A civilization like this is not built on Race; it is built on Grace. It is not built on White; it is built on Right + righteousness.