From The British Friend, Vol. XLI, No. 2 (2nd Month 1st, 1883).
This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.
Through the kind care of Calvin Clark, we were met on the boat by a coloured youth, and soon a comfortable carriage was in readiness to take us nine miles to Southland College. The road was rough, amid bluffs and through woodlands the first seven miles; then we came out into a large cotton plantation with many cabins and other dwellings for the coloured people scattered over it, and in the edge of the bordering woods. About six in the evening we drove up to Southland, the most attractive looking place w e had seen in Arkansas.
The boys ran out to meet ns at the gate and announced our arrival within. A cordial welcome from our friends made us feel at once at home.
We have now spent about a week here, and have become somewhat familiar with the household and their daily life and work. We have learned much also of their history and surrounding.
It is not quite twenty years since the commencement of this work by our friends Calvin and Alida Clark. They are at present the only white people in the institution. For several years Amasa and Lydia Chase have been their faithful and efficient colaboure rs in the mission here and the country around, sometimes living in the institution, but now a little way from it. We now see a well-conducted household, a well-ordered school, and a good sized meeting. We have been here at "Christmas" time, when the colo ured people are generally given up to exciting revelry, and have been pleased to see the content with which innocent pleasure and wholesome restraint have been accepted. We have attended their Meetings for Worship, where the silence seemed sweet and refr eshing, and the word preached found place in tender and receptive hearts.
We have attended their Monthly Meeting, in which the interest and importance of the subjects considered, the dignity of the proceedings, the variety and force of the remarks made, would compare favourably with our Monthly Meetings in the North. A ministe r (coloured) returned a minute for service among their scattered members, with a brief and informing report of their condition. He spoke of them as maintaining generally, in their isolation and destitution of religious privileges, a Christian life and ch aracter which is a light in their respective neighbourhoods.
Two of the members sent in their intentions of marriage, with consent of parents, all in writing, nicely expressed in their own words.
The presence and certificates of the strangers drew out some comment on the value of such care in liberating ministers as our testimonials showed, and much loving and thankful appreciation of our visit.
The meeting held three hours, children and all, members and others remaining to the end. There are four coloured ministers recorded, three of whom were present, one a young man, a pupil in the college. I have been impressed by what I have seen and heard of these, with their watchful and exemplary walk, and the evidence of a true anointing upon them.
The first recorded of these was a soldier in the war. Being drawn early under the wing of this mission, he applied himself to study in evening schools, and to the use of such means of self-culture as were possible to a labouring and poor man. C. and A. C lark were careful to correct mistakes and mis-pronunciations in his language; and now he speaks with remarkable correctness and precision and effect - thoughtfully rather than emotionally.
Our friends Calvin and Alida Clark were drawn to this work by a constraint and guidance which they could not doubt was from the Lord. They began it amid the perils of war time. It was afterwards exposed to the threats and terrors of the "Klu-Klux Klans." It has had to encounter from the first the prejudices and hostility of the cotton planters, and of almost the entire white population of the country around.
It has grown up in isolation, far removed from the enlightening agencies available to the coloured people in the North, or even in the border States. The pupils have been gathered from the orphans and children of the most ignorant and oppressed class of slaves.
In view of all this, we feel in being here that, however our Friends in other places might differ with regard to the manner in which some means are employed, such as singing and music, this institution is a Beacon in Arkansas, and an untold blessing to t hose who have been brought under its influence.
I must add, in closing, the very grateful sense we have in leaving Southland, of the kindness we have received, and of the open-heartedness with which our visit and labour have been welcomed. Counsel as well as encouragement have been invited.
Isaac Sharp has had much of instruction and interest for them, as well as of deep religious exercise. His visit will not be forgotten. A precious soil is prepared here for the word of truth, and the seed-sowing of these twenty years of patient and prayerful toil on the part of our dear friends is bearing fruit in a widening field.
May the Lord still bless it with His own increase.