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Hood, James Walker(1831–1918) - Minister, activist, Chronology, Freed Slaves and Activism, Affiliated with Fraternal Orders

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As one of the major developers of independent black churches and an active promoter of black fraternal orders, James Walker Hood is an example of nineteenth-and early twentieth-century beliefs that Christian faithfulness and racial justice are inseparable in the mission of the black church. Hood was a successful advocate for the rights of emancipated slaves after the Civil War. During the operation of the Freedmen’s Bureau, he served as an assistant superintendent of education and had helped place 49,000 black children in schools. As a minister and later bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ), Hood helped to establish well over 366 churches in the coastal areas of North Carolina, as well as in South Carolina and Virginia. He was the founder of North Carolina’s denomination newspaper, the Star of Zion , and helped to establish the Zion Wesley Institute which later became Livingstone College. As the superintendent of the southern jurisdiction for the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge of New York, Hood helped to establish numerous lodges and became grand master of Masons of North Carolina. Given his political and social influence, his views on subjects such as slavery, lynching, segregation, education, and even politics regarding the president of the United States were important factors in state government and Reconstruction in North Carolina.

Chronology

1831

Born in Kennett Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania on May 30

1852

Decides to become a preacher; marries Hannah L Ralph, who dies three years later

1856

Receives license to preach in a branch of the Union Church of Africans in New York City

1857

Begins affiliation with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

1858

Marries Sophia J. Nugent of Washington, D.C.

1859

Serves on trial basis in the New England Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

1860

Ordained a deacon of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church on September 2; appointed to the Nova Scotia Missions

1862

Becomes an elder on June 15

1868

Elected as delegate to the Reconstruction Constitutional Convention in the state of North Carolina; appointed agent of the state board of education

1870

Elected grand master of the Prince Hall Masons in North Carolina

1872

Consecrated as bishop at the AME Zion General Conference on July 3

1875

Second wife Sophia dies

1876

Serves as temporary chairman of the Republican State Convention

1877

Marries Keziah Price McKoy, a widow from Wilmington, North Carolina

1916

Retires after forty-four years of service as bishop of the AME Zion Church

1918

Dies in Fayetteville, North Carolina on October 30

James Walker Hood’s parents, Levi Hood and Harriet Walker Hood, had strong religious affiliations. Levi Hood was a minister in the Union Church of Africans in Delaware and Harriet Walker was a member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Philadelphia. When the couple married in 1813, Harriett Walker Hood transferred her affiliation to the Union Church of Africans to support her husband. Even though Levi Hood remained a minister with this denomination for over forty years with his wife at his side, Harriett Hood continued to support and sometimes attend Bethel AME. Contrary to most women of the time, Harriett Hood was very outspoken. She was interested in ecclesiastical affairs and gave public lectures on antislavery. She was never ordained as a minister, but her role as the minister’s wife and church mother gave her an audience. Her active role may have influenced her son’s decision years later to champion the ordination of women. When James Walker Hood was born on May 30, 1831, the family lived on a rented farm in Kennett Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Hood was one of twelve children, six boys and six girls. His position among his sisters and brother is not known. Hood had a year and eight months of training in a rural school between the ages of nine and thirteen. His mother taught him grammar and got him interested in public speaking. He delivered his first abolitionist speech at the age of fifteen. Hood’s feelings about slavery and the abolitionist movement were influenced by the disenfranchisement of blacks and the hostile racial climate in Pennsylvania toward free blacks, the close proximity of Delaware, a slave state, and the influence of Quakers. Active in the abolitionist movement, the Hood family’s role in the secret network of the Underground Railroad is unknown. Hood saw many slaves, fleeing from the South to the North and to Canada. These early years set the spiritual and moral agenda of Christian faithfulness and racial justice that Hood championed in his career.

Hood was converted and convinced of his salvation by the age of eighteen. He experienced a call to preach the gospel in 1852 and later married Hannah L. Ralph of Lancaster City, Pennsylvania. Sadly, three years later, Hannah Hood died of consumption. After receiving his license in 1856, Hood moved to New York City to preach in a branch of the Union Church of Africans. After a year in New York, Hood moved to Connecticut but found no branch of the Union Church of Africans. Having some experience with the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) Hood pursued and received an acceptance of his license and established an affiliation with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ) in 1858. He also was appointed on a trial basis to an AMEZ Church in Connecticut and as a missionary to Nova Scotia Canada. Hood had to supplement his small salary from parishioners in order to support himself and his new wife, Sophia J. Nugent of Washington D.C., whom he married in 1858. He took a job as the headwaiter at the Torntine Hotel in New Haven. He converted hotel coworkers and influenced religious colleagues, bringing in over seventy-two new members to the AMEZ church.

In 1860 Hood secured funding to make his missionary sojourn to Nova Scotia. As a result of his efforts he was ordained a deacon in 1860 and in 1862 ordained as an elder by the AMEZ Church. Later in 1863 Hood assumed the pastorate of a congregation in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After six months he was appointed missionary to the freed people in the South. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 and the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which liberated slaves in Confederate states, freed slaves needed a lot of support. Hood arrived in 1864 at his southern assignment in New Bern, North Carolina. The congregation of Saint Andrews in New Bern was initially organized as a Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Hood was successful in securing the denominational allegiance of this pre-Civil War black congregation to the AMEZ Church even with the convergence of other representatives from the AME Church seeking to gain their affiliation.

Freed Slaves and Activism

In 1865 Hood was selected president of a convention of free blacks in North Carolina, which met in Raleigh, North Carolina, and called for full citizenship and rights for all blacks. Hood was involved in many North Carolina political and social arenas that affected blacks. When Radical Reconstruction began nationwide in 1867, Hood along with other blacks in the state participated in the state convention to redesign the constitution. As required by the victorious Union, Confederate states were to bring the rights of their black citizens in accordance with Congressional Reconstruction. Hood as a convention delegate successfully promoted homestead laws, public education, and women’s rights, which laid the foundation for black equality and benefited whites as well. Hood was so dynamic that the constitution, once ratified in 1868, was referred to as the Hood Constitution. To support the education component in the constitution, the position of agent of the state board of education was created. Hood held that position for three years. The position was eliminated in 1870 when the Democrats took control of the state legislature and amended many of the advances that Reconstruction had established.

General Otis O. Howard of the Freedmen’s Bureau commissioned Hood as assistant superintendent of public instruction of North Carolina, with special duties for black children and temporarily as a magistrate. By 1870 Hood had placed 49,000 black children in public school and had established a department for the deaf, dumb, and blind. He also played a supporting role in establishing Fayetteville State University. The end of Reconstruction in North Carolina was imminent as Democrats eliminated Hood’s position and went after other plans that supported black citizens. The educational plan and other advances that Hood helped develop were well established by the end of Reconstruction and did not fall easily to Democrats’ and white Southerners’ efforts to dismantle them. Hood served as a delegate to the National Republican convention in 1872 and as temporary chairman of the convention. The state constitution was amended in 1872 and no longer could be referred to as the Hood Constitution. With the election of Rutherford B. Hayes as president of the United States and the withdrawal of federal troops, Reconstruction came to an end in other parts of the South as well. In addition to suffering political loss, Hood experienced two personal losses: his father died in 1872, and his second wife, Sophia, died in 1875.

Affiliated with Fraternal Orders

Hood left few references to his affiliation with the fraternal order of Prince Hall, in line with the enforced secrecy of this society. Secret societies as well as the origins of the black church can be traced back to post-Revolutionary America when both groups served blacks as a means for finding autonomy and a sense of racial strength against racism in both the North and the South. Hood had become superintendent of the southern jurisdiction of the Prince Hall Masonic Grand Lodge of New York. A common goal of both the church and the societies was to uplift blacks through the art of social organized life. Although there were clear differences between these groups, the mutual benefits were recognized by blacks of the time. As many as two-thirds of the most prominent blacks in the United States in the early 1900s held memberships in both a fraternal order and the black church. Hood served as a moving force in bringing black Masonic lodges to the North Carolina region. In a trip to the fifth annual proceedings of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons for the state of North Carolina, Hood was honored as the “Most Worshipful Grand Master.” From his 1864 arrival in North Carolina until 1874, eighteen Prince Hall lodges were established in the state with 478 members. Hood served as the “Grand Master of Masons of North Carolina” for fourteen years and as “Grand Patron of the Order of Eastern Star” for nineteen years.

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