Freedmen's Bureau Records: Emily Rodney to Orlando
Brown, April 2, 1866
Emily Rodney writes to protest her being barred from preaching to the black population of Staunton by Frederick Tukey and the Freedmen's Court. She writes that the people should be free to worship as they choose, and complains that she was not given a proper hearing. The attached endorsement by Tukey states his side of the case, in which he argues that Miss Rodney was undermining the unity of the community.
Gen O Brown
April 2d 1866
Last fall about 1st Sept I was sent on a Mission by our church to Staunton Va to look after the Spiritual interest of My People. I found them without any shepherd and worshipping in the abasement of the Church South. I read our discipline to them and almost all of them voted to join our Church numbering about 500; and the list enclosed of 139 names are those who agreed to contribute towards building a A.M.E. Church.
Rev. W. D. Harris by authority from Bishop Payne
a Preacher (Rev. Mat. Marshal to preach for them, who went up and labored with the people very acceptably for 3 or four weeks and the people were willing to unite with our church and were anxious to do so. But Mr. Tukey advised him to let them remain where they were until Spring so Mr. Marshal complied with Mr Tukeys wishes and left them but during the winter the Washington Conference sends a man there who receives Mr. Tukeys cooperation and a portion of the members join the Washington Conference Church we have nothing against their having all the members who desire to belong there but we do ask as in the the name
of Justice and Religious Liberty that the people be allowed to worship God according to the dictates of their consciences and that they be allowed to join the Church of their first Choice, and that your humble servant be allowed to preach and hold meetings with the people in the usual orderly and peaceful Manner. I was sent for by the people, I went and found them divided and in a very unsettled and dissatisfied state, I labored for Union, and love, and peace among them. By false accusations I was summoned to appear before Mr. Tukey who advised me to desist from preaching until some money was raised for the preacher of the W.C. Church. I complied until he went away
I commenced holding my meetings again far away from their place of Meeting and Mr. Tukey summoned me before him, to a trial. I took witnesses along with me but he heard the testimony and statements of my enemies and refused to hear any statement of facts from my friends or witnesses and then decided that I should not hold any more meetings in Staunton and that I should stop preaching there. I told him that I should appeal to you from his decision. He stated that he believed me to be a lady and that my motives were pure. I now respectfully but earnestly ask that I be allowed to continue to hold meetings in a lawful way in Staunton. The people are determined to join the A.M.E. Church and have sent for a Minister to come and organize them into a church according to agreement last fall.
Most respectfully submitted