Tag Archives: Religious Newspapers

“By What Right?” Two Baptist Newspapers from Tazewell

TBCRecently, the Library of Virginia acquired two Baptist newspapers, the Primitive Baptist and the Tazewell Baptist, both from Tazewell, Virginia. The two papers share more than just denomination and place of publication: both are small format, measuring 9.5” x 12”, both issues are dated April 1890 and both are volume one, number four. It seems there was a rift in the Baptist Church and it played out in competing, and very similar, newspapers that began at about the same time. There is only one extant issue of each, so the duration of each paper is unknown.Baptist 2

Portrait of J. A. Leslie, from the Tazewell County Public Library Photograph Collection. Digital copy is available at the Library of Virginia.

The Tazewell Baptist, published by Rev. Joseph Albert Leslie, described itself as “Devoted to the work of the New Lebanon Association” and, among other causes, hoped to raise money for state missions. Leslie arrived in Tazewell to minister for the “fledgling flock” of the Tazewell Baptist Church and later served as a teacher at Tazewell College. The Primitive Baptist was published by John Newton Harman, Sr., also a teacher and one of the founders of Tazewell College. Harman’s newspaper espoused the ideas of the Primitive Baptist movement, a more conservative sect of Baptists, which claimed to adhere strictly to the teachings of the New Testament, with rules that forbade instrumental music, the collection of tithes and dancing, among others.

Page one of the April issue of the Tazewell Baptist posed the following question: “By What Right? We mean, by what right do our brethren assume the titles of “Regular” and “Primitive” Baptist? Do they mean that they are the only lawful representatives of the “first,” or “regular” Baptists of the New Testament, or even of America? We simply … read more »

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Old Time Religion: Virginia’s First Freedom and LVA’s Religious Press Collection

Exhibit

The First Freedom Exhibit in the Library of Virginia’s Exhibit Hall

The current exhibit at the Library of Virginia, First Freedom: Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom, explores the meaning and evolution of this significant legislation. Written by Thomas Jefferson in 1777, it was not enacted into law until January 16, 1786, when it was passed by the Virginia General Assembly. The statute disestablished the Church of England, allowed citizens the freedom to practice any religion and assured the separation of church and state–innovative precepts later incorporated into the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

By showing episodes from Virginia’s past which involved questions of religious tolerance and practice, the exhibit raises important and often difficult questions, such as what actually constitutes the separation of church and state? How is “establishment of religion” defined? And how have perceptions of “religious freedom” changed since the statute was written?

In recognition of First Freedom, the Virginia Newspaper Project spotlights the Library of Virginia’s large collection of religiously affiliated newspapers which offer insight into religion’s role in local culture, morality and life. The papers also show how the understanding of religious tolerance and separation of church and state have changed over the past 200 years. For example, this article from the Lutheran weekly Our Church Paper of Feb. 16, 1904, fully endorsed church involvement in the development of the public educational system. “What part shall she play in the education of the youth of this country,” it asked, “and how shall she play it?” It warned that without the church’s intervention, public education might become “completely secularized.”

OCP 16 Feb 1904OCP (2) 16 Feb 1904Virginia has a long and rich tradition of religious press with Episcopalian, Baptist, Jewish, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Catholic publications, dating back well over one hundred years. Virginia Chronicle, the Library of Virginia’s digital newspaper repository, contains … read more »

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