Nash’s Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community 1720-1840 goes over the communities in Philadelphia and how both black and white people in Philadelphia interacted with each other. Nash pointed out the death of William Gray who was a fruit seller and played a leading role in organizing the African Church in Philadelphia (Nash 172). Both races black and white attended his funeral. Immigration also was reflected in Forging Freedom in which the reading pointed out the French moving to Philadelphia. The French were trying to get away from the revolts that were happening in Haiti and came to Philadelphia with their slaves. Governor Thomas Mifflin did not want any French Blacks coming to Philadelphia and requested that President Adams stop French Blacks and master from coming to Pennsylvania (Nash, 175). – Jasmine Williams
Nash’s Forging Freedom speaks to the fear of the black community in Philadelphia from 1720-1840. Part of this fear was due to the Haitian Revolution and the defeat of the French. A fear of black marauding ship of former French slaves was unfounded however fear of black revolt persisted. Black Philadelphians would continue to push for abolition but would find the most help in local black churches, mostly in Methodist and more traditional Episcopal church. J.Binns
Following the years of Pennsylvania instituting the slow end to slavery in the state, the tension between different racial communities was at a relatively low point. With the Haitian Revolution forming, a lot of Haitian immigrants were fleeing to Philadelphia in hopes of refugee. This facilitated fear in the white population as they had the misconceived idea that the black community of Philadelphia was growing at an outrageous rate, pushing the white population lower and lower. The idea that black immigrants were coming to the city and taking jobs that, potentially white people could fulfill, angered them deeply. Black communities also grow autonomous through forming their own branches of churches. In rebuttal, the white communities deliberately force black communities out of community activities and pay them lower wages.
Nash argues that despite the temporary racial harmony resulting from Gray’s death, tensions increased in the early 1800s. Because of violence, white hostility, and bad economic conditions, black Americans quickly began forming their own community and institutions. Some of the contributing factors to the growing tensions were the slight rise in the black population of former slaves from the South, a visible change in the structure of the black community, increased job competition, and fear of “racial revenge.” As white Philadelphians' fear of rebellion grew, the Abolition Society attempted to relieve tensions by enforcing behavioral rules and “moral guidelines” on the free black community to refute objections made against them by “good conduct alone” (177).
For black Philadelphians, the black church was for religion, education, association, and politics. Starting in 1794, when the African Protestant Episcopal St. Thomas and the Methodist Bethel were established, black Philadelphians started to leave the white churches (190). While some stayed, most left, including the ones who went to Quaker and Catholic churches. Absalom Jones was able to get many worshippers in the early years of St. Thomas, and even after his death, it continued to be a center of activism within the black community (192). Richard Allen had much success with Bethel, as Black Methodism was/is warm, simple, had evangelical fervor, and a system of discipline to reform and reorder members’ lives. It also featured more emotionalism and expressiveness than White Methodism, which white Methodists did not approve of. Despite an allegiance to the Methodist faith and warm relations with Methodist leaders, Allen and Bethel faced issues of independence and authority (193-199). Yet, white Presbyterians encouraged black faith, helping to secure John Gloucester’s freedom, licensing him, and getting funds to build a church. He formed the first black congregation in the United States. His amazing singing, powerful preaching, and authenticity drew many in (199-201). In April 1809, Henry Simmons, another former southern slave, and twelve others formed another church, this one the African Baptist Church of Philadelphia. Unlike with the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, there were delegates from the African Baptist church at the Baptist Association and Philadelphia from the beginning. Due to this, it maintained a southern identity for many years. By 1813, almost 2,400 black Philadelphians were members of the seven black congregations (201-202). -Francesca Maisano
The draw of freedom and opportunity of black from places like Virginia and Maryland concerned the residents of Philadelphia and turned what appeared to be a racially unified city into one with increasing rational tensions. The summer of 1805 demonstrated these tensions during the July 4th celebration of liberty and equality. During the celebration, the white residents began to throw obscenities at the African-American community driving them from the celebration. ~Deborah Hunnel
Many African Americans dealt with fear and negativity associated with whites in their community. Nash helps to illustrate the feelings that they dealt with, and their remedy to those ill-feelings. Blacks were constantly being mistreated and judged by their white neighbors, and felt as though they did not have a place of their own to feel free, safe, and welcomed. The church became their safe-haven; and a place where they felt as though they could express themselves freely. -Mariah Morton