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In Their Own Words

June 20, 1740

Whitefield’s Concern for Blacks Recorded

Georgia evangelist George Whitefield was well known for his animated preaching and his establishment of the Bethesda Orphan Home near Savannah. Less known was his concern for free blacks and slaves, as evidenced by this day’s journal entry by Johann Martin Boltzius on the occasion of Whitefield’s visit to Ebenezer. [In editing Boltzius’ journal, Urlsperger replaced many proper names with “N”. In this case, the “N” clearly refers to Whitefield.]

“Mr. N. [George Whitefield] is thinking again of traveling to Port Royal and Charleston this coming week. He told me he had already collected more money in America than in England for the orphanage to be erected in Savannah. He hopes to get even more blessings when he travels to New England in a little while. In Pennsylvania he has bought 5,000 acres of land for an institute for Negroes that cost him upwards of 700 £ sterling because all land there is very expensive. It lies rather distant from Philadelphia. The land is undeveloped, and hopes to get such Negroes as have gotten their freedom (for whom he wants to establish a school) to work in the construction voluntarily, above all if they, as he has very good hopes, have been won by the gospel of Christ.

“In Philadelphia he has had a letter printed, directed to the inhabitants of North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, in which he earnestly reproaches them for their irresponsible attitude towards the bodies and souls of these slaves and reveals to them the divide judgments which some have already experience and some are waiting to experience, if there is no improvement.”

Source: George Fenwick Jones and Don Savelle (trans. and ed.), Detailed Reports on the Salzburger Emigrants Who Settled in America … Edited by Samuel Urlsperger (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983), Vol. 7, pp. 165-166.