For you are her people, the people of the Christian Church; we are all God’s people. It seems to me that just now God is interested in bringing to every race in the world the chance of liberty for hand and head and heart. God has greater things for us all to do than we can now understand, but all his purposes must wait on our getting free from everything that would defeat our work.
Our First-Church young people welcome you because with all else you represent a great purpose to make religion intelligent. You know, as we do, that piety to be vital must be mixed with sound learning. You have the missionary spirit, which never thrives in an atmosphere of resistance to education. You are ‘fellow Christians,’ fellow workers. We are sharers with you in personal devotion to our Lord, and in the common purpose to make him Master of all life.
And, finally, let me say it bluntly, we welcome you because we believe in your pride of race, and honor it in you as we honor it in our fellow citizens of other races. They and you have some things in common, but you will not misunderstand me when I congratulate you on what is peculiar to you. You have been fully Americanized for more generations than most other Americans. You have no need to strive after the American spirit. I have a friend of Greek birth, who thinks pridefully back to the Golden Age of Greece, and I envy him his glorying. But your pride of race, turning away from the unhappy past, sees your Golden Age in the days to come, not in the dim yesterdays. You are the makers, not the inheritors, of a great destiny.
“For that noble future which is to be yours in our common America, you do well to hold as above price the purity and strength of your racial life. Better than we of Caucasian stock, you know that only so may all the values be fully realized which are to be Africa’s contribution to the spiritual wealth of America and the world.”
There was a moment of silence, for the implications of the last sentence were not as plain as they might have been. But when the audience caught J.W.’s somewhat daring appeal to its racial self-respect it broke into such cheers as are not given to the polite phraser of conventional commonplaces.
THE FIRST AMERICAN CIVILIZATION
The full record of J.W.’s commercial career must he left to some other chronicler, but an occasional reference to it cannot be omitted from these pages.
Pastor Drury’s brother Albert, a Saint Louis business man who knew the old city by the Mississippi from the levees to the University, was a citizen who loved his city so well that he did not need to join a Boosters’ Club to prove it. The two Drurys saw each other, as both averred, all too seldom. On the infrequent occasions when they met, as, for instance, during a certain church federation gathering which had brought the minister down to Saint Louis from Delafield, their “visiting” was a joyous thing to see.