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Richard Carroll Papers, 1908-1977

Thirty-six manuscripts, 1908-1977, relate to the career of Richard Carroll (1859-1929), a conservative African-American leader and Baptist minister of the early twentieth century. Carroll is sometimes referred to as the "Booker T. Washington of South Carolina." His message advocated self-help and economic advancement for blacks while discouraging efforts to achieve political and social equality between the races. His influence with contemporary white leaders in political, business, and Southern Baptist clerical circles brought him to prominence in South Carolina before and after the First World War. [See also, description of Richard Carroll photograph collection, listed in Pictorial Caroliniana.]

Carroll was born a slave in Barnwell County, but lived much of his adult life in Columbia. After serving as a chaplain with the 10th U.S. Infantry in the Spanish-American War, he founded the Industrial Home for Boys and Girls, a school for delinquent black children. The institution, located near Columbia on land once owned by the Hamptons, drew its support from both Northern donors and local businessmen. Afterwards, from 1906 to 1915, he edited a semi-monthly newspaper called The Southern Ploughman. He also promoted his ideas through various organizations: he founded the Colored State Fair Association and sponsored a series of annual race congresses. His love for animals involved him in lifelong humane society work. In 1907, the Roosevelt administration invited both Carroll and Booker T. Washington to attend a conference on child welfare at the White House.

The South Caroliniana Library collection includes newspaper clippings and magazine articles by or about Carroll, some of which feature texts of his sermons and speeches; aside from periodicals, there are memoranda by Carroll, endorsements of Carroll's work by white leaders, and papers relating to Carroll's family. The newspaper file contains items from the black Columbia newspapers The Southern Indicator and The Palmetto Leader and includes significant portions of issues that have previously been missing from the library's collection. A number of other clippings are taken from The State newspaper, whose editor William E. Gonzales was an enthusiastic Carroll backer.

Carroll espoused an extreme agrarian philosophy, distrusted city influences, and advised South Carolina blacks to remain on the land. The northern black exodus that occurred during the First World War drew his condemnation. "We carried a letter in yesterday afternoon's paper," The Greenwood Daily Journal reported in 1916, "sent us by Rev. Richard Carroll, the distinguished colored preacher of Columbia, in which he advises the negroes to remain in the South where conditions are far better for them. Some days since, he published an article in another paper in which he referred to a visit he had made to Greenwood when he saw several thousand colored people gathered at the depot, from the surrounding country, who had come in to witness the departure of a number of colored persons who were taking the train for some Northern point. In this letter, Mr. Carroll says he could hardly resist the temptation to mount a box and advise the people not to leave, but he did not do it for fear that he would be misunderstood, charging that he was giving his advice because of the fact that he had been requested to do so by white people. This he denies. He could himself go North and make more money, but as he is not out for money, but for the better things in life he is remaining in the South."

On 2 December 1908, William E. Gonzales gave Carroll a letter of recommendation on The State newspaper letterhead. "For a dozen years I have known Richard Carroll," Gonzales wrote, "and have closely watched his work. No negro, Booker Washington not excepted, so holds the respect and confidence of the whites of South Carolina; no negro stands so preeminent among the negroes of the State. He is now supported by many influential negroes who at first bitterly antagonized his methods. The secret of this situation must be that Carroll, with a store of common sense, and with a keen insight into the nature of both races, has told plain truths at all times, to audiences of whites, to audiences of negroes, and to mixed audiences. They have been helpful truths; he reveals shortcomings of both sides. He conceals nothing, yet is tactful. He is honest and moral. Both races are convinced that the Rev. Richard Carroll is sincere, that he is unselfish, that he is patriotic, and is working wisely for the best interests of the negro race, and for its development in the South, with the friendly cooperation of the whites."

Eventually, Carroll became an evangelist for the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board in Atlanta, Ga., a white organization that supported his work among blacks. Victor I. Masters, a white Baptist minister and a prolific writer and editor for Baptist publications, had publicized Carroll's activities beginning in the early 1900s. A 27 February 1915 letter in the collection indicates that Masters, a South Carolina native, headed the Home Mission Board's department of publicity.

In 1915, Carroll spoke at a Baptist revival in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and wrote down his impressions of prominent white Baptist clergymen who took part in the event. Of Texas minister Dr. J.B. Gambrell, he wrote, "I did not hear him preach or pray but I heard him talk to the audience and I was impressed with his simplicity, directness, pathos, clear vision, amiableness, thoughtfulness and his sympathetic feeling and expression for the Negro people especially Baptist. He is a true representative of the `old school'-the old South. A feeling of sadness passed over me when I thought of his type of men having nearly all passed away in the South. A new generation and a new type of men-that knew not Joseph, have come upon the scene."

Carroll had made his way into the good graces of many prominent South Carolina politicians, including Senator Benjamin R. Tillman. In 1912, Tillman, said to be one of Carroll's admirers, got him appointed to a speaker's bureau working in favor of Woodrow Wilson's first bid for the presidency. Two years earlier, Carroll had published an article titled "Uncle Joe's Defence of the Senator" in the Baptist mission magazine The Home Field. The article reported an interview between Carroll and Joe Gibson, a sixty-six-year-old black employee on Tillman's plantation at Trenton. In summation, Carroll wrote-"One would think from Senator Tillman's abuse of Negroes on the stump and elsewhere that he is mean to Negroes. But Uncle Joe put it right when he said: `Rev. Carroll, Senator Tillman makes dem speeches jes' for fun. He talks dat way jes' cause some people likes to hear him.'"

Even in 1910, Carroll's Old South agrarian vision likely had more appeal to whites than to his fellow blacks, but his efforts to improve relations between the races brought him to national prominence. Befitting his stature in the community, Carroll's funeral on 1 November 1929 was the first police-escorted funeral for an African-American ever held in Columbia.

| Richard Carroll photograph collection |
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