Posts tagged Raphael Morgan
We’ve spent a lot of time on this website talking about Fr. Raphael Morgan, the first black Orthodox priest in America. Morgan was attached to the Greek church in Philadelphia. When he went to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be ordained in 1907, he had two letters in his possession. One was from the Greek community of Philadelphia, which supported Morgan’s ordination, and said that if he failed to establish a black Orthodox church, he was welcome to be the assistant priest at their parish. The other letter was from the parish priest in Philadelphia, a remarkable man named Fr. Demetrios Petrides.
Petrides was born on Samos in the mid-1860s. He was a married priest, with children, but his wife died before he came to America. Back in Greece, Petrides’ daughter fell in love with a young man, John Janoulis, and they wanted to get married. Petrides approved, but Janoulis’ father wanted his son to get an education, rather than get married. (I think there was also a bit of a wrong-side-of-the-tracks dynamic at work here, too.) The pair got married, Janoulis was disowned by his father, and Petrides took the couple under his wing. Janoulis went to America to earn money, which of course was common at the time, and then Petrides was asked by the Church of Greece to become the new priest in Philadelphia. He arrived in 1907, and brought along his daughter, reuniting her with her husband. Just a couple of months after he arrived in America, Petrides wrote his letter, recommending that Robert Morgan be ordained a priest. For a while, Morgan actually lived in Petrides’ home.
Like so many of his fellow priests, Petrides traveled throughout his region of the country, ministering to the Orthodox people he found who didn’t have a priest. One time, he went to Ithaca, New York, to do a baptism. After the service, unbeknownst to Petrides, a 16-year-old Greek girl had advertised that she would go into a “spirit trance.” Greeks had traveled from all over to witness the spectacle. Petrides caught wind of what was going on, and he burst into the room, stopped the girl’s trance, and told the people that spiritualism is against the teachings of the Orthodox Church. This was the sort of man he was – completely unafraid to stand up for what was right, no matter what.
It was this gumption that got Petrides run out of Philadelphia. Like a lot of early Greek communities, the Philadelphia church was dominated by a rich layman — in this case, Constantine Stephano, a millionaire cigarette manufacturer. Stephano and Petrides did not get along. Things came to a head in 1912, when Stephano sent the following message to Petrides – this is almost unbelievable. It said,
Constantine Stephano commands you to appear at his office every evening at sunset and salaam low upon entering his presence. Then you are to stand erect, with folded arms, with your eyes cast downward, awaiting a word from Stephano before sitting down or otherwise changing your position. If you are not asked to be seated you are to remain in this position until Stephano leaves his office, and when he passes through the door you are to salaam low again and depart with bowed head.
Stephano was obviously trying to humiliate Petrides, and Petrides would have none of it. He responded, “I will not thus humiliate myself before this maker of cigarettes.” Now, as you all probably know, in the early twentieth century, Greek parishes in America had only a loose connection to the church authorities in Athens or Constantinople. As a practical matter, the parishes were run by all-powerful boards of trustees, which would hire and fire priests at will. Constantine Stephano arranged for Petrides to be ousted from the Philadelphia church, by the slim margin of seven votes.
But, characteristically, Petrides left with his head held high. In September of 1912, newspapers in Georgia began reporting that a daring Greek priest was coming to Atlanta. One newspaper called Petrides “the stormy petrel of the cloth.” Another paper said that he was famous for his “lambasting of the rich Greeks who loved money for the sake of power.” He was warmly welcomed by the Greeks in Atlanta, who seemed to have a good idea of the sort of priest they were getting.
But Petrides was not simply focused on his fellow Greeks. At the turn of the twentieth century, there was a very active dialogue taking place between the Orthodox and the Episcopalians. This led to the creation of a group called the “Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union.” The group’s Orthodox members included clergy from various ethnic backgrounds, including Antiochians, Russians, and Greeks. For several years in the teens, Fr. Demetrios Petrides was the group’s Greek representative. He thus was engaged in this national inter-Christian dialogue, and he was also cooperating with his fellow Orthodox of different ethnicities.
As the teens wore on, Petrides developed diabetes, and in the days before insulin, that was a death sentence. He died in September of 1917.
Several of the early Greek priests in America were notable, significant historical figures, and Fr. Demetrios Petrides is no exception. But he was more than that — he was a courageous priest, who, time and again, did what he thought was right, regardless of the potential consequences. Practically every time I find information about Petrides, it has something to do with him standing up for his principles — supporting his son-in-law who had been disowned by his father, mentoring the first black priest in America, breaking up the “spirit trance” spectacle in Ithaca, rebuking a corrupt millionaire in Philadelphia.
In many ways, Petrides reminds me of his fearless contemporary, Fr. Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, the great convert priest in the Russian Archdiocese. And even more so than Irvine, Petrides has been almost totally forgotten since his untimely death. That is largely a function of a general ignorance of the history of Greek Orthodoxy in America prior to the foundation of the Greek Archdiocese. But Petrides is, in my view, one of the greatest Greek priests who ever served in America, and we would do well to preserve his memory, and learn from his courage.
Marcus Garvey was a widely influential black nationalist from Jamaica. He promoted black pride and championed the “back to Africa” movement. In 1916, when he was just 29 years old and at the outset of his public career, he visited the United States and embarked on a 38-state speaking tour. Not all of the black Americans who attended his lectures liked what they heard. Among those unhappy with Garvey was Fr. Raphael Morgan, the first black Orthodox priest in America. As we’ve discussed in the past, Morgan was born in Jamaica, and in 1916, he was living in Philadelphia, affiliated with the city’s Greek Orthodox church. In response to Garvey’s speeches, Morgan and some associates addressed the following letter to the editors of the Jamaican newspapers:
September 19, 1916
The Editor, Dear Sir, –
We the undersigned Jamaicans, residents of the United States for several years beg your permission to call to your attention and the public of Jamaica a matter affecting the welfare of Jamaicans at home and abroad.
Under the caption of Journalist and President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Jamaica, W.I., one Marcus Garvey, Jr., is giving an extended series of lectures in this Country, pertaining to the social and economic conditions of Jamaica.
We, having attended his lectures, found them to be pernicious, misleading, and derogatory to the prestige of the Government and the people.
Among the many assertions of the speaker are the following: –
1. Governmental misrule, causing economic depression, poverty, and misery with their detrimental consequences.
2. The falsity and hypocrisy of the existing social condition between the white and black races – to wit:
Absorption by inter-marriage of the intellectually superior and advanced blacks with whites, with the view of estranging and nullifying their usefulness to their race.
Result – Acquiescence, arrogance, and unapproachableness, on the part of these blacks who inter-marry. The white wife tires. There is an ultimate separation. Wife returns to her native land. Husband in Jamaica contributes to her support abroad.
3. The Governmental and Commercial interests connive to keep the scale of wage so low that the labouring classes are unable to meet the necessary demands to sustain their needsand wants. The girls of Jamaica are resorting to vice and immorality through lack of industrial opportunities and poor economic conditions. Praedial larceny is rampant and the jails are filled[.] Education is restricted and limited to the children of the poorer classes causing intellectual deficiency to the masses.
4. He drew a deplorable picture of the prejudice of the Englishman in Jamaica against the blacks, portraying hypocrisy and deceit of his attitude towards the blacks, and stated his preference for the prejudice of the American to that of the Englishman.
Mr. Editor, the above are only a few of the damaging statements being disseminated by the aforesaid Marcus Garvey, Jr., among the American public.
Further details would be a repetition of the demoralising utterances of the speaker.
The bad effects of these lectures on the minds of the American public are deplorable and are causing great indignation among Jamaicans here, who feel greatly humiliated.
Thanking you for space and hoping through this medium Jamaicans will be enlightened on the seriousness of this matter. We are,
Father Raphael, O.C.G., Priest-Apostolic, the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church, Dr. Uriah Smith, Ernest P. Duncan, Ernest K. Jones, H.S. Boulin, Phillip Hemmings, Joseph Vassal, Henry H. Harper, S.C. Box, Aldred Campbell, Hubert Barclay, John Moore, Victor Monroe, Henry Booth and many others.
This letter was published in the Kingston Gleaner (10/4/1916) and the Jamaica Times (10/7/1916). A month later, Marcus Garvey issued a reply. According to the Gleaner (11/14/1916), “Mr. Garvey said that the letter which is a concoction and a gross fabrication, was written by his enemies in Jamaica and sent to Philadelphia to be transmitted to the Gleaner, for the purpose of prejudicing him in the eyes of the Government and those who have always wished him well in his efforts in Jamaica, as well as with the intention of interfering with his success in America.”
The original letter, by Morgan and friends, raises all sorts of questions. Take, for instance, the letters after Morgan’s name — “O.C.G.” From other sources, we know that this stands for “Order of the Cross of Golgotha,” a body of which Morgan was the “founder and superior.” But what, exactly, was the Order of the Cross of Golgotha? Roman Catholicism has all sorts of religious “orders,” but the concept is exceedingly rare among the Orthodox. I suspect, but cannot prove, that Morgan may have created the Order for black Americans. Were the other 13 signers of the Garvey letters members of this Order? Was its membership restricted to Orthodox Christians, or did Morgan welcome non-Orthodox to join? Was its establishment blessed by the Church of Greece — of which Morgan was a priest — or was Morgan operating independently? The whole Order is almost a complete mystery.
Could Morgan’s fellow signers provide clues, both about the Order and about Morgan’s whereabouts after 1916? Many of the signers seem to have been working-class people. Here are a few of them, with ages and occupations from the 1910 or 1920 Censuses:
- Ernest K. Jones, 37, construction worker
- Philip Hemmings, 43, sailor
- Henry H. Harper, 29, waiter
- John Moore, 51, contractor
- Henry Booth, 32, laborer
I found another signer, Hubert Barclay, on an Ellis Island passenger manifest dated March 31, 1915 (i.e., about 18 months prior to the Garvey letter). Barclay, a 42-year-old coachman, was coming to the US from Jamaica. He was born in Chapelton, Clarendon, Jamaica — the same town as Fr. Raphael Morgan. The two men probably grew up together.
H.S. Boulin was the owner of a black doll company in Harlem. And while he signed the 1916 letter against Garvey, he eventually became one of Garvey’s closest confidants. Unbeknownst to Garvey, though, Boulin was also Agent P-138 — a spy for J. Edgar Hoover’s new Federal Bureau of Investigation. Here’s some background on Boulin, from Robert A. Hill’s multivolume collection of Garvey documents:
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1873, Herbert Simeon Boulin served in the British army from 1902 until 1907. After spending most of his term of service in Africa, he returned to Jamaica in 1907. In 1908 he visited Philadelphia, where he decided to make his home. He opened up a school for teaching shorthand, but it soon failed. Afterward, he worked as a laborer at a local shipyard and then as an employee of the Pinkerton Detective Agency between 1915 and 1920. In January 1920 Boulin became a U.S. citizen. In July 1920 he was hired by the Bureau of Investigation to investigate the Garvey movement. After J. Edgar Hoover sent him a letter terminating his services in August 1921, Boulin opened his own detective agency, promoting his services by advertising his status as a former employee of the Department of Justice.
Boulin infiltrated Garvey’s organization, funneling information back to FBI headquarters. I’d guess that Boulin met Morgan in 1908, upon his arrival in Philadelphia. It’s entirely possible that there is information on Morgan — by way of Boulin — in the FBI archives.
Philip Hemmings also became close with Garvey, although in his case, he was no secret agent. In 1920, he was one of the signers of Garvey’s famous “Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World.” Another signer of the 1920 Declaration was a man named George Alexander McGuire. Of course, we’ve talked about McGuire before — he was a black Episcopal priest from the West Indies, and he almost certainly knew Fr. Raphael Morgan. Later, in 1921, he established a noncanonical body called the “African Orthodox Church.” McGuire and Marcus Garvey eventually had a falling-out, but the African Orthodox Church spread to Africa itself, and the group in Africa ultimately joined the canonical Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.
The 1916 letter against Marcus Garvey is the last thing I’ve found on Fr. Raphael Morgan. After that, Morgan vanishes from the historical record. His end is one of the great mysteries of American Orthodox history.
It is well known that, at the turn of the last century, thousands of Syrians/Lebanese made the trip across the Atlantic to New York. What is less well known, at least here in the US, is that many Syrian emigrants went to other parts of the New World, including South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. A lot of these travelers found their way to Jamaica, which, to this day, has a sizeable Syrian contingent.
Unlike the Syrians in the US, however, these Syro-Jamaicans didn’t obtain a permanent Orthodox priest, or establish a functioning Orthodox community. They stuck together as an ethnic group, but in terms of their religion, they eventually became absorbed into the existing Anglican church of Jamaica.
That said, the Syro-Jamaicans did receive occasional pastoral visits from Orthodox clergy. In 1913-14, Fr. Raphael Morgan, the first black Orthodox priest in America (who was serving under the Church of Greece at the time), visited Jamaica and served the Divine Liturgy (aboard a Russian ship) for the Syrians he met. But he wasn’t the first Orthodox clergyman to visit Jamaica. Three years earlier, in August of 1910, a priest named Fr. Antonio Michael came to the island. Here is an account of his visit, from the Kingston Gleaner (8/4/1910):
It will be remembered that during last year the [Anglican] Archbishop addressed a meeting of Syrians on the Rectory Lawn. Since that time many of the Syrians have been worshiping with us regularly. A step towards closer fellowship was taken on July 17th, when the Rector, taking advantage of the visit to Jamaica of a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church, arranged a special service for Syrians. The priest in question, Father Antonio Michael came with authority from the Patriarch of Antioch to visit the Syrians scattered through these Islands.
Having inspected the Patriarch’s letter the Rector invited Father Antonio to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at the Altar of the Kingston Parish Church. The invitation was accepted and accordingly on Sunday we were privileged to witness a fine illustration of the friendly relations which exist between the Anglican and the Greek Orthodox Church.
At 8 a.m. the Rector celebrated and Father Antonio sat in the Sanctuary in his robes. At 9 a.m. Father Antonio celebrated for the Syrians in the presence of a large congregation of Jamaicans, following the Eastern rite, the Rector being present within the Sanctuary. The services lasted altogether two hours and a half, but many remained to the end, though the Syrians’ service being in Arabic was difficult to follow for those not acquainted with the language. To those who knew something of the Eastern rite it was full of interest. At the close of the service Father Antonio commended the Syrians to the pastoral care of the Rector.
Father Antonio concluded his address on the Gospel for the day in these words:
“May you live together in peace and love. I raise my heart and hands to God Almighty asking Him to be with every one of you. May He prosper you in all your undertakings. May He bless the Island of Jamaica and grant to His Majesty King George V. strength, wisdom and length of days; to His Excellency the Governor and to all associated with him in the Government of this Island, knowledge and understanding. I pray that our Heavenly Father may keep and bless the Archbishop and the Ministers of the Holy Church especially Mr. Ripley who has allowed me to have this service to-day. O God, guard Thy children from all dangers ghostly [spiritually] and bodily. May they grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and finally of His great mercy obtain everlasting life. Amen.”
Clearly, Fr. Antonio did not plan to remain in Jamaica, and he saw nothing wrong with commending the Orthodox people there to the care of the Anglican clergy. As I said, the next Orthodox priest (that I’m aware of) to visit Jamaica was Fr. Raphael Morgan. While he was under the Church of Greece, most of the other Orthodox clergymen to visit Jamaica in the early 20th century were Antiochians. However, no permanent priest was ever assigned to for the Syrian community, and today, the descendants of those Syrians are predominantly Anglican.
The following is a translation from the French of the article “Un Conquete du Patriarcat Oecumenique,” from Échos d’Orient, Volume 11, 1908, concerning Fr. Raphael (Robert Josias) Morgan, the first black Orthodox priest in America. The article uses his middle name “Josias.”
The translation was done using Google Translate with a little cleaning afterward. A few pf the phrases made sense neither to Google nor to me, but I tried my best with my rudimentary French. Corrections are welcome. This article was originally spotted by Matthew Namee.
A CONQUEST OF THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE
The Church of Constantinople recorded last summer a resounding conquest, which has made local headlines for days in the newspapers and halls of the capital. An American clergyman, a native of the English Antilles [the West Indies], a negro of the finest black, the Reverend Robert Morgan, after a few weeks of living on the shores of the Golden Horn, has had the singular grace of seeing the light of Tabor and being admitted into Orthodoxy. His [prior] baptism worthless, like all unbelievers who live outside the Orthodox Church, the said negro, a robust fellow of about thirty-five years, was plunged three times from head to toe in the font of purification, and came out white, one of the flock of the great Church of Christ. After which, the neophyte, wishing to obtain the sacred order of priesthood that he was only supposed to have before, was ordained priest by Mgr. Joachim Phouropolos, a Metropolitan expelled from Monastir [present day Bitola, FYROM - edited thanks to comment!], who recited the prayers of the Pontifical in English. Since then, the ex-Reverend Morgan, now become Father Josias Morgan, said Mass in the Byzantine rite in the English language [emphasis in original].
This is how this this actually happened. It is understandable that this is of public interest in Constantinople, which really lacks entertainment.
I saw Father Josias, and one summer morning I mounted with him the green and sunny shores of the Bosphorus. At the pier of the Chirket, with the wide sleeves of his rasso, in his kamilafki all brand new, and with his booming voice, he attracted the attention of all, to the delight of the Greeks, proud of their booty, and to the great amusement of young Ottoman officers accustomed to seeing people of color in the company of Turkish women. Having gone to see an Englishman of my acquaintance, I told him of my meeting. I now literally transcribe the brief dialogue that ensued between us:
- “M. G…, I saw this morning, one of your compatriots.”
- “Where was this?”
- “On the boat Chirket.”
- “Where is he from?”
- “I think he is from Jamaica.”
- “Introduce him to me, so I may make his acquaintance,” said my friend who has long lived in this island.
- “I will do so, but I must warn you that he is a negro.”
- “Oh! Well, don’t introduce me.”
- “I should add he became a Greek priest.”
- “A Greek priest! You are confused and this must be a sorcerer.”
- “I’ve never seen a negro sorcerer, but I know enough of the dress of Orthodox priests such that there is no error on my part.”
- “You’re right, after all; this does not surprise me.”
- “What! I am surprised by this very much.”
- “The negroes are very religious.”
- “Indeed, yes, they have so much religion that they change it every week.”
My friend was wrong. Many weeks have passed since our conversation, and Father Josias remained faithful to the Orthodox Church. He left Constantinople for Philadelphia in the United States in the first days of November, carrying 28 Turkish lira (a lira is worth about 23 francs) which was given by the holy synod for his travel expenses.
What will he do in his country? Certainly, [he will] found an Orthodox church of negroes. But what else? That’s what we know, and in fact, the first goal was good enough [et d'ailleurs le premier but suffit - edited thanks to Facebook comment!]. It seems, however, that the Reverend Morgan had intended, embracing Orthodoxy, to be consecrated bishop. The Holy Synod declined, and I think it was wrong. The ordination of a bishop of color would have rendered invaluable services.
Firstly, being an American and a member of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, said Morgan would have exercised jurisdiction over all the Greeks settled in America. Hence a great advantage would be obtained by the Phanar over the Church of Athens. At the same time, the latter took their revenge. Indeed, if the Greeks of America continue to ask for a bishop, they will want a white [one], of course. They are a people of such a taste and wit as never to accept a negro bishop, even were he the eunuch of Queen Candace [of Ethiopia]. From the day they would have imposed Morgan as Bishop on them, they would have returned to the motherland; which contrasts with Athens on the question of emigration, which furnished to Cabinet Theotokis ten thousand conscripts who lack the necessary annual [pay] [et fournissait au Cabinet Theotokis les dix mille conscrits nécessaires qui lui manquent annuellement].
It is really unfortunate that the Church of Constantinople had not thought of all these advantages and has left the negro Morgan unconsecrated as bishop.
Update: It should be noted that the posting of this historical article should in no way be construed as an endorsement of the opinions expressed therein.
2009 has been an eventful year for American Orthodoxy — perhaps the most eventful in our history. But it’s got competition. The year 1905 may well have been even crazier. Here is a list of the major happenings of 1905, in no particular order:
- The headquarters of the Russian Mission were transferred from San Francisco to New York. Bishop Tikhon was elevated to Archbishop, and the Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska became the Archdiocese of the Aleutian Islands and North America.
- Archbishop Tikhon wrote his now-famous proposal for an American Church divided into ethnic jurisdictions, all under the authority of the Russian Archbishop.
- The first Orthodox seminary in America was founded, in Minneapolis.
- Bishop Raphael published the first issue of Al-Kalimat (The Word).
- Then-Bishop Tikhon received an honorary doctorate from Nashotah House, the famous Episcopalian seminary. Later that year, the degree would be rescinded.
- To ensure its independence from the Russians, Holy Trinity Greek church in New York City was legally incorporated — by an act of the New York State Legislature — as, “The Hellenic Eastern Orthodox Christian Church of New York.”
- Bishop Raphael consecrated the grounds of St. Tikhon’s Monastery, in South Canaan, PA.
- A fake bishop, Seraphim Ustvolsky, was operating in Canada.
- Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky, the dean of the Russian cathedral in New York, received a bomb threat, which turned out to be a hoax.
- The first Orthodox services were celebrated in Utah. Construction began on a Greek church in Salt Lake City a few months later, and by October, the church building was consecrated.
- Fr. Michael Andreades, an ethnic Greek who was educated in Russia, was ordained a priest by Abp Tikhon. He was one of a handful of Greek priests to serve in the Russian Mission.
- The first Orthodox parish was organized in Washington, DC (St. Sophia Greek church).
- The Russian statesman Sergei Witte came to the US to negotiate with the Japanese to end the Russo-Japanese War. Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky was present for the negotiations.
- Bishop Raphael was arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder. This crisis lasted for a couple of months, but in the end, Bishop Raphael was exonerated.
- Isabel Hapgood put the finishing touches on her English translation of the Service Book, which would be published the following year.
- Just in the month of October, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich 1) established the first Serbian church in Chicago, 2) was raised to the rank of archimandrite by St. Tikhon, and 3) laid the cornerstone for the first Orthodox church in Montana.
- Robert Morgan, a black Episcopal deacon, regularly attended the Greek church in Philadelphia.
- Ingram Nathaniel Irvine converted to Orthodoxy and was ordained a priest by Abp Tikhon. With his conversion, the “English Department” of the Russian Mission was created.
- Fr. Aftimios Ofiesh arrived in New York, beginning his colorful career in America.
And those are just the big events. An interesting book could be written, just on American Orthodoxy in 1905. Eventually, we’ll have articles on each of these events here at OrthodoxHistory.org. For now, though, it’s worth reflecting on a year that was, quite possibly, even more chaotic than our current one.