Two days ago, I presented some primary source material on the first African American Unitarian minister, Rev. William Jackson of New Bedford. Today I turned up another primary source that tells about Rev. William Jackson’s appearance before the Autumnal Convention of the American Unitarian Association in October, 1860. The following report is excerpted from a much longer report published in the New Bedford Evening Standard for 11 October 1860, p. 2, and offers significant new information:
Rev. Mr. Jackson, pastor of the Salem Baptist church (colored) [sic] of this city, addressed the Convention saying that he subscribed entirely to the doctrines advanced in the discourses which had been delivered before the body. He avowed himself as a convert to the doctrines of liberal Christianity [i.e., Unitarianism], and should endeavor in the future to advocate those sentiments from his pulpit.
Rev. Mr. Potter, of this city, bore testimony to the character and integrity of Mr. Jackson. He suggested that a collection be taken up in aid of Mr. J’s church, which was somewhat in debt.
The report of the Committee upon the Address to the Unitarians of England was taken from the table [this report was on the subject of antislavery efforts in the U.S.], and after a slight modification it was accepted.
The collection taken up yesterday in aid of Rev. Messrs. Foster and Brown, of Kansas, was announced to be $300; and that in aid of Mr. Jackson’s church to be $49.46.
Here’s the new information:
- Jackson is reported as saying he listened to the proceedings of the Autumnal Convention, and that he agreed with Unitarian thought.
- Jackson is reported as saying that he was a “convert” to Unitarianism. Unlike the other account, he does not state that he was converted during the Convention; there is no time attached to his conversion.
- Jackson pledges to preach Unitarian thought from his own pulpit in the future.
- According to this report, Jackson did not ask for money himself. Instead, it was William J. Potter, the minister of the existing Unitarian church in the city (then called First Congregational Society; the church in which the Convention met) who asked the Convention to take up a collection to aid Jackson’s church.
- A more precise amount is is given for the proceeds of the collection for Jackson.
- There is no mention of any additional money collected, as in the other primary source, although that might be due to the fact that such additional collection might have taken place after the reporter left to write the story.
Like the other primary source, this source contains no report of any welcome from the gathered members of the American Unitarian Association.