For many decades after slavery ended, black pastors often were the most formally educated or learned individuals within a given black community. Black pastors during this era wielded enormous influence over their flocks with respect to all issues political or social.
Where and when black people could not vote in vast parts of the Jim Crow South from the late 1880s to 1965 because of poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses, among the paucity of blacks who could theoretically withstand this litany of voting impediments were the more educated and relatively well off pastors who could read the passages, pay the taxes and the like. The local Republican Party and decades later, the Democratic Party, knew full well to court the pastors to ensure maximum turnout for given candidates
During this period, whites in both major parties knew the power of the black pastor with respect to all things political and social because by and large, as black people were not highly educated or politically and socially aware en masse, said whites knew that the same would be more easily controlled if the black pastors were kept in line. For such reasons, conservative whites in the South, then of the Democratic Party, knew that the key to keeping blacks complacent was through encouraging black pastors to encourage their flocks to keep things separate but (un)equal. Similarly, northern white progressives in both parties used black pastors for their political and social ends, too, including Margaret Sanger. Sanger, a noted eugenicistand founder of Planned Parenthood, was adamant that black pastors be used to help spread her goal of birth control and “sterilization” among “inferior” people.
Knowing this history is important because it puts what Donald Trump and other major political figures are doing as far as courting black pastors into perspective. The difference these days, however, is that black people en masse are far more formally educated and generally knowledgeable about political and social issues. Thanks to the Internet and social media, information about the candidates and their positions are a keystroke or voice request away. Which is a good thing. Because while I am friends with many great black pastors, including my own, Reverend Dr. Julius H. McAllister Jr. of Bethel A.M.E. in Tallahassee, Fla., the political preferences of my black pastor friends belongs to them and my political preferences belong to me… period!
To that end, if one’s political and social sensibilities reject Donald Trump as a political figure, as it should for any well read black person in America, or should said black person’s pastor stand in the pulpit on Sunday morning and suggest that Donald Trump deserves our respect and vote, just smile and know that said pastor has sold out for a ticket on the Coon Train. At that point, pray for discernment as to whether to simply reject said pastor’s political message and wait for the spiritual lesson, or ask God to guide you to another church home altogether….