Washington Manly Wingate

Prepared By

Elizabeth O’Donnell Gandolfo, Earley Assistant Professor of Catholic and Latin American Studies, School of Divinity

Lucas Johnston, Associate Professor of Religion and Environment, Department for the Study of Religions

Simeon Ilesanmi, Washington M. Wingate Professor of Religious Studies, Department for the Study of Religions

Bill Leonard, Professor of Divinity Emeritus, School of Divinity

Introduction

The University has begun in earnest the work of articulating a fuller and more accurate narrative of the school’s history. A necessary and concrete next step is to consider the relationship between our current mission and values and how and why we commemorate our past. This is important intellectual and communal work that grows out of and informs the University’s self-examination of our history of slavery and racism. We affirm a careful and intentional process of reimagining and marking a physical campus environment that reflects both the fullness of our history, its ugliness and beauty, and our commitments to hospitality and equity for all who work and study here.

Washington Manly Wingate was closely related to Wake Forest College for a period of 27 years, from 1852 until his death in 1879 at the age of 51. Unfortunately for this specific study, written sources from Wingate are very limited, particularly related to issues and ideas raised by the “Extending the Frame” process. Given the dearth of primary source materials not only from Wingate and his contemporaries regarding his views on the topics pursued in this document, it seems important to begin with a brief description of his historical context as Southerner, Baptist minister, and college president.

Revisiting the early history of Wake Forest requires a recognition of the cultural and religious context in which the school was founded and the impact of that culture on the school’s formation in a slavery-oriented society. In 1822, 12 years before the founding of the College, Richard Furman, pastor of the First Baptist Church, Charleston, South Carolina, issued the first explicit “Bible defense” of chattel slavery published in the South. Furman’s “EXPOSITION of the Views of the Baptists, Relative to the Coloured Population in the United States in a Communication to the Governor of South-Carolina” declares:

Had the holding of slaves been a moral evil, it cannot be supposed, that the inspired Apostles, who feared not the faces of men, and were ready to lay down their lives in the cause of their God, would have tolerated it, for a moment, in the Christian Church.”[1]

Furman acknowledged that there were failures in the way slaves were treated, but none of that changed what he believed to be the divine mandate:

That Christian nations have not done all they might, or should have done, on a principle of Christian benevolence, for the civilization and conversion of the Africans… and that the religious interests of the latter have been too much neglected by many cannot, will not be denied. But the fullest proof of these facts, will not also prove, that the holding men in subjection, as slaves, is a moral evil, and inconsistent with Christianity.[2]

In 1852, the same year that Washington Manly Wingate became associated with Wake Forest College, Domestic Slavery Considered as a Scriptural Institution was published. It contained an exchange of correspondence between South Carolina pastor Richard Fuller and Brown University president Francis Wayland on the question of chattel slavery. Fuller reasserted Richard Furman’s arguments with even greater detail, insisting that “both testaments constitute one entire canon, and that they furnish a complete rule of faith and practice.” He concluded: What God sanctioned in the Old Testament, and permitted in the New, cannot be a sin.”[3] Francis Wayland was no abolitionist, but supported gradual manumission, fearing that slaves were not ready for immediate freedom. Wayland opposed the militancy of the abolitionists but supported their contention that the overarching command of the Golden Rule negated slavery as a viable practice, especially for Christians.[4]

As abolitionism gained momentum in the North, Baptist denominational divisions became increasingly inevitable. In 1840, the North Carolina Baptist State Convention passed a resolution, noting: Resolved, “That in the opinion of the members of this Convention, the movement of northern abolitionists are uncalled for in themselves, and schismatical and mischievous in their tendency.” In 1844, when the nationally organized Baptist home missionary society rejected appointment of a known slaveholder, Baptists in the South gathered at First Baptist Church, Augusta, Georgia, in May 1845, and founded the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

In 1856, during the second year of Wingate’s presidency, Wake Forest trustees repudiated Francis Wayland’s opposition to slavery by eliminating his widely used study, The Elements of Moral Science, as an acceptable text for college classes. The book condemned slavery as un-Christian and became a staple of abolitionist resources.[5] Since Wingate was professor of moral and intellectual philosophy and rhetoric, it must be supposed that he participated in or at least acquiesced to that decision.

In his classic study, At Ease in Zion: A Social History of Southern Baptists 1865-1900, Baylor University professor Rufus Spain wrote: “The question of slavery had divided Baptists and brought a new denomination into being. Southern Baptist historians have attempted to minimize slavery as a cause in the formation of the Southern Convention, but the divisions of Baptists on sectional lines, like the disruption of the Union fifteen years later, would not have occurred had there been no slavery controversy.”[6]

The North Carolina Baptist Convention united with the new denomination, bringing Wake Forest College with it. Other state conventions brought along their colleges, including Richmond, Furman, Mercer, and Baylor. Each of these institutions had slave-holding faculty members and donors. Not all those individuals were outspoken public defenders of the South’s Peculiar Institution, but all clearly accepted chattel slavery as a biblically sanctioned social given. Washington Manly Wingate was such an individual.

Relationship to Wake Forest

Washington Manly Wingate (1828-1879) was born July 28, 1828 in Darlington, South Carolina, to William and Isabella Blackwell Wingate. Wingate graduated from Wake Forest College in 1849, then studied for two years (1849-1851) at the Furman Theological Institute, the forerunner of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, founded in 1859 and moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1877. He married Mary E. Webb in December 1850, and together they produced seven children: Alice, Lizzie, Walter Blackwell, William Jonathan, Belle, Sally, and Ruth. Wingate became an ordained Baptist minister on March 3, 1852, while pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and associate at Darlington Baptist, the church that commissioned his ordination. In October 1852, at age 24, he was employed as an agent of Wake Forest College and charged with raising $50,000 for the school’s endowment, funds that were secured during his presidency.

Wingate was soon hired as a professor of moral and intellectual philosophy and rhetoric as well as president pro tempore of Wake Forest College in June 1853. He served as the fourth president of Wake Forest from 1854 until the time of his death in 1879. Like other presidents before him, he was pastor of Wake Forest Baptist Church.

While the school was closed during the Civil War, Wingate preached as an evangelist to Confederate soldiers, and also served as pastor of congregations at Franklinton, Oxford, and Wake Forest. He was an influential leader among North Carolina Baptists and the broader SBC. He received honorary doctorate degrees from several institutions during his career–Columbian College (now George Washington University) and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He died on February 27, 1879, and was buried in the cemetery at Wake Forest’s original campus in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

When Wake Forest College moved to Winston-Salem in 1953, the Department for the Study of Religions and the offices for the Wake Forest Baptist Church were located in a building named for Wingate. A prominent road on campus and a professorship in the college also bear his name. In 1896, Wingate University in North Carolina was named for Wingate.

At Wake Forest, Washington Manly Wingate was at once professor, president, and preacher, three functions that reflect inseparable identities. In each of those offices, he seems to have involved himself in the personal, academic, and spiritual formation of the students. In a eulogy of Wingate, given the year of his death, F. H. Ivey observed: “Dr. Wingate’s successful work here was widely felt in general educational movements in the State. He exerted untold influence through representative young men whose characters he largely moulded [sic], as the preachers, teachers, lawyers, and statesmen of the land. That influence was wholly conservative—and was altogether for good.”[7] Ivey cited Dr. Thomas Prichard who noted of Wingate:

His mental characteristics admirably qualified him for imparting instruction in moral and intellectual science, and he greatly excelled as a disciplinarian. During his long Presidency, the moral character of the students of Wake Forest College has been a higher tone than that of any similar institution known to me in America. The crowning glory of the man was his piety.”[8]

As pastor of the Wake Forest Church, Wingate was concerned for the spiritual life of the students, so much so that in 1857 he canceled classes for two weeks as a spontaneous revival fell upon the student body. One student recalled: “Every student except one male made a profession of religion.”[9] Wingate was at heart a Baptist preacher.

During the war, Wingate permitted use of the school’s only dormitory for nursing care of wounded southern soldiers. At war’s end, he allowed veterans to offer “a note” for deferred tuition, and, one student recalled, “The young men who felt called of God to the work of the gospel ministry were as a rule indigent and unable to pay any tuition, and the college gave all such free tuition.”[10]

Biblical Recorder, the state’s Baptist periodical, reproduced Wingate’s address to the 1868 graduating class, the first since the war’s closure, in which he acknowledged the difficult times and the forces of Reconstruction they were confronting. He observed:

Young gentlemen of the graduating class it is always a painful duty to pass the diplomas into the hands of those who are so soon to leave us, and bid them look out from the quiet retreat of preparation to the active arena of life. But it is especially painful now. The future is not an encouraging one. Life has not apparently the bright hopes of promise which once our youth might feel as they turned away from their Alma Mater to enter upon its untried duties. But seasons of adversity are never times for despondency.”[11]

Continuing, Wingate raised the challenge that Wake Forest graduates and the entire region faced with war’s defeat and Reconstruction, noting:

In our recent anomalous political condition we have been importing our politicians and our legislators. Shall we, when the brighter day shall dawn, import our men of science and education? Shall the South thus succumb when our youth of noble and varied gifts are here, and should be held well in hand for the great emergencies of our coming future? Alas, that we should enter the market thus to barter away so lightly our intellectual birthright. I confess to you, young gentlemen, that this is the darkest feature of the frowning cloud which hangs over our future-this I say, that we do not appreciate now in the crisis of our fate, the supreme importance of a thorough education, for every available young man and woman in our midst.[12]

During this period of his presidency, Wingate continued to secure funds to endow the College, soliciting primarily northern Baptists, establishing the James Denmark Loan Fund and the Alumni Association.

Conception of Pro Humanitate

Washington Manly Wingate was a slave owner. Records from the “List of Members Revised” of the Wake Forest Baptist Church, January 1865, documents the fact that among the “Colored Males” who were members was “Wingate’s Isaac.” “Colored Females” listed “Wingate’s Hannah,” “Wingate’s Jinnie,” and “Wingate’s Charlotte.”[13] Even their “names” reveal the inhumanity of their deplorable condition.

Wingate was Wake Forest president in 1860, when 16 enslaved individuals from the Blount estate were sold to start the College’s first endowment. That sale was not unrelated to his initial employment at Wake Forest. Just before Wingate’s tenure as president began, the College elected him as agent to raise $50,000 in endowment funds. College leaders reported that the financial success of Wake Forest depended on securing endowment funds: “It is expedient and proper as well as necessary for the success of this Institution, that the sum of Fifty Thousand Dollars be raised as speedily as possible for the endowment of Wake Forest College.”[14]

According to historical reports, Wingate was able to secure the initial sum within five years. A portion of the money he raised came from the sale of enslaved persons the College inherited from the John Blount estate. In 1836, John Blount, a Baptist from Edenton, died and left a major bequest to Wake Forest that included land, homes, and the following enslaved persons: Harvey; Tom; Venus and child; Mary; Emma; and Lettice. His wife, Rebecca Blount, was given lifetime rights, and she remained in possession of this property and these enslaved people until her death in November 1859.

The Wake Forest Board of Trustees checked into this estate numerous times between 1836 and 1859. As soon as Rebecca Blount died, the Trustees dispatched James Simpson Purefoy, board treasurer, Baptist minister, and slave owner, to take possession of the property and the slaves. Between 1836 and 1859, due to births, the number of slaves had increased to 16 – Isaac; Jim; Lucy; Caroline; Pompie; Emma; Nancy; Harriet and child; Joseph; Harry; Ann and two children; Thomas; and Mary. In the coming months, Harriet and Nancy were hired out for profit. A slave auction was held on May 7, 1860. The sale of these 16 human beings brought $10,718 in profit to fund the endowment of Wake Forest. One woman, Mary, escaped her enslavement before the sale but was later captured in Norfolk, Virginia and sold there at the end of that month.

The College closed during the Civil War and, under Wingate’s leadership, its financial assets were invested in a mix of Confederate and State bonds. While the College was closed, from May 1862 to January 1866, Wingate preached to Confederate soldiers and edited North Carolina’s Baptist paper, The Biblical Recorder. He also published a tract called “I Have Brought My Little Brother Back.” The tract was distributed to Confederate soldiers during the Civil War and was intended to offer them moral and religious encouragement. In it, Wingate described the experience of a Carolinian who brought his younger brother home to be buried. Wingate wrote:

The young soldier has returned. The battles around Richmond are still raging. Our brave army is steadily driving the enemy from his long line of entrenchments and multiplied redoubts. He is at last in full retreat. The Capitol is safe. Victory after victory is sounded through the land. Glad voices greet you on every side, as the cars arrive.– Cheers rise on the air, and a thousand grateful hearts swell with God’s great deliverance. But here and there, amid the happy throng, could be seen one whose sad face spoke a mournful contrast. Such an one greeted me in the young Texas Ranger, who, as he grasped my hand, and brushed a tear away, said: “Mr.–I have brought my little brother back.” He had fallen. In his first battle, in the first fierce encounter around the Capitol of his country, his temples were pierced by the fatal bullet, and now, in a neat case, secured by the kind Chaplain, he is brought to his home.[15]

As a Southern Baptist minister, Wingate mourned the death of a soldier dying to protect the Confederacy. He especially mourned the failure of this particular young man to secure eternal salvation prior to his death by professing the Christian faith. Yet Wingate apparently failed to mourn the loss of freedom for “Wingate’s Isaac,” for the other human beings he owned, or for the 16 enslaved persons over whose sale he presided in 1860 as president of Wake Forest.

Debates about slavery, many of them moral and religious debates, raged during Wingate’s era. A range of prominent publications demanding the end of slavery appeared in the U.S. in the late 18th to mid-19th centuries prior to the Civil War. Essays, pamphlets, and speeches urging emancipation were published by scholars, professors, pastors, and politicians. Others condemned abolition and advocated secession from the Union. During this time period and while Wingate was President of Wake Forest College, many College trustees and financial supporters were slave owners. All of the presidents of the College prior to Emancipation were also slave owners–Samuel Wait, William Hooper, John Brown White, and Washington Manly Wingate.

While we do not have access to primary sources that document Wingate’s own views on the humanity of enslaved persons, his actions speak volumes. To possess other human beings as property, to preside over the sale of human beings (a particularly cruel practice that tore apart families of enslaved persons), and to directly support the cause of the Confederacy — these are actions that are decidedly contra humanitate. These are actions that bespeak not only an intellectual or ideological dehumanization of enslaved persons of African origin and descent, but they also embody a very real and material violation of basic human rights and dignity.


Footnotes

[1] Richard Furman, “EXPOSITION of the Views of the Baptists, Relative to the Coloured Population in the United States in a Communication to the Governor of South-Carolina,” in Bill J. Leonard, Early American Christianity (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1979) 385.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Domestic Slavery Considered as a Scriptural Institution: In a Correspondence Between the Rev. Richard Fuller, of Beaufort, S.C., and the Rev. Francis Wayland, of Providence, R.I., (New York, 1845), 170. Capital letters used in the original text.

[4] Doug Weaver, “Review: Domestic Slavery Considered As a Scriptural Institution,” Journal of Southern Religion 15 (2013): http://jsr.fsu.edu/issues/vol15/weaver.html.

[5] Willie Grier Todd, “North Carolina Baptists and Slavery, North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 24, No. 2 (April 1947), 153, citing Minutes Board of Trustees, Wake Forest College, Tuesday, June 10, 1856.

[6] Rufus Spain, At Ease In Zion (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1961),6-7.

[7] F.H. Ivey, “Good and faithful servant”: Memorial address on the life and character of Rev. W. M. Wingate, D.D., June 12, 1879, 14, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/010937609.

[8] Ibid, 17.

[9] L.R. Mills, “My Recollections of Dr. W.M. Wingate,” North Carolina Historical Society, vol. III, January 1899 to January 1900, 164.

[10] L. R. Mills, “My Recollections of Dr. W.M. Wingate,” North Carolina Historical Society, vol. III, January 1899 to January 1900, 193)

[11] George Washington Paschal, History of Wake Forest College (Wake Forest, NC: Wake Forest University, 1943), 52, citing the Biblical Recorder, July 8, 1864.

[12] Ibid, 54.

[13] “List of Members Revised,” January 1865, in Minutes and Roll Book, Wake Forest Baptist Church minutes, 1835–1939, North Carolina Baptist Historical Collection, Wake Forest University Special. Collections.

[14] ZSR archives: https://wakespace.lib.wfu.edu/handle/10339/93470

[15] W.M. Wingate “I have brought my little brother back,” https://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/winget/menu.html.

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Research

Research subcommittees comprised of faculty were charged with conducting comprehensive research on several individuals connected to Wake Forest history.