Hood, James Walker

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James Walker Hood

Minister, activist

As one of the major developers of independent black churches and an active promoter of black fraternal orders, James Walker Hood is an example of nineteenth-and early twentieth-century beliefs that Christian faithfulness and racial justice are inseparable in the mission of the black church. Hood was a successful advocate for the rights of emancipated slaves after the Civil War. During the operation of the Freedmen's Bureau, he served as an assistant superintendent of education and had helped place 49,000 black children in schools. As a minister and later bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ), Hood helped to establish well over 366 churches in the coastal areas of North Carolina, as well as in South Carolina and Virginia. He was the founder of North Carolina's denomination newspaper, the Star of Zion, and helped to establish the Zion Wesley Institute which later became Livingstone College. As the superintendent of the southern jurisdiction for the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge of New York, Hood helped to establish numerous lodges and became grand master of Masons of North Carolina. Given his political and social influence, his views on subjects such as slavery, lynching, segregation, education, and even politics regarding the president of the United States were important factors in state government and Reconstruction in North Carolina.


Born in Kennett Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania on May 30
Decides to become a preacher; marries Hannah L Ralph, who dies three years later
Receives license to preach in a branch of the Union Church of Africans in New York City
Begins affiliation with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
Marries Sophia J. Nugent of Washington, D.C.
Serves on trial basis in the New England Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
Ordained a deacon of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church on September 2; appointed to the Nova Scotia Missions
Becomes an elder on June 15
Elected as delegate to the Reconstruction Constitutional Convention in the state of North Carolina; appointed agent of the state board of education
Elected grand master of the Prince Hall Masons in North Carolina
Consecrated as bishop at the AME Zion General Conference on July 3
Second wife Sophia dies
Serves as temporary chairman of the Republican State Convention
Marries Keziah Price McKoy, a widow from Wilmington, North Carolina
Retires after forty-four years of service as bishop of the AME Zion Church
Dies in Fayetteville, North Carolina on October 30

James Walker Hood's parents, Levi Hood and Harriet Walker Hood, had strong religious affiliations. Levi Hood was a minister in the Union Church of Africans in Delaware and Harriet Walker was a member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Philadel-phia. When the couple married in 1813, Harriett Walker Hood transferred her affiliation to the Union Church of Africans to support her husband. Even though Levi Hood remained a minister with this denomination for over forty years with his wife at his side, Harriett Hood continued to support and sometimes attend Bethel AME. Contrary to most women of the time, Harriett Hood was very outspoken. She was interested in ecclesiastical affairs and gave public lectures on antislavery. She was never ordained as a minister, but her role as the minister's wife and church mother gave her an audience. Her active role may have influenced her son's decision years later to champion the ordination of women. When James Walker Hood was born on May 30, 1831, the family lived on a rented farm in Kennett Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Hood was one of twelve children, six boys and six girls. His position among his sisters and brother is not known. Hood had a year and eight months of training in a rural school between the ages of nine and thirteen. His mother taught him grammar and got him interested in public speaking. He delivered his first abolitionist speech at the age of fifteen. Hood's feelings about slavery and the abolitionist movement were influenced by the disenfranchisement of blacks and the hostile racial climate in Pennsylvania toward free blacks, the close proximity of Delaware, a slave state, and the influence of Quakers. Active in the abolitionist movement, the Hood family's role in the secret network of the Underground Railroad is unknown. Hood saw many slaves, fleeing from the South to the North and to Canada. These early years set the spiritual and moral agenda of Christian faithfulness and racial justice that Hood championed in his career.

Hood was converted and convinced of his salvation by the age of eighteen. He experienced a call to preach the gospel in 1852 and later married Hannah L. Ralph of Lancaster City, Pennsylvania. Sadly, three years later, Hannah Hood died of consumption. After receiving his license in 1856, Hood moved to New York City to preach in a branch of the Union Church of Africans. After a year in New York, Hood moved to Connecticut but found no branch of the Union Church of Africans. Having some experience with the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) Hood pursued and received an acceptance of his license and established an affiliation with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ) in 1858. He also was appointed on a trial basis to an AMEZ Church in Connecticut and as a missionary to Nova Scotia Canada. Hood had to supplement his small salary from parishioners in order to support himself and his new wife, Sophia J. Nugent of Washington D.C., whom he married in 1858. He took a job as the headwaiter at the Torntine Hotel in New Haven. He converted hotel coworkers and influenced religious colleagues, bringing in over seventy-two new members to the AMEZ church.

In 1860 Hood secured funding to make his missionary sojourn to Nova Scotia. As a result of his efforts he was ordained a deacon in 1860 and in 1862 ordained as an elder by the AMEZ Church. Later in 1863 Hood assumed the pastorate of a congregation in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After six months he was appointed missionary to the freed people in the South. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 and the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which liberated slaves in Confederate states, freed slaves needed a lot of support. Hood arrived in 1864 at his southern assignment in New Bern, North Carolina. The congregation of Saint Andrews in New Bern was initially organized as a Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Hood was successful in securing the denominational allegiance of this pre-Civil War black congregation to the AMEZ Church even with the convergence of other representatives from the AME Church seeking to gain their affiliation.

Freed Slaves and Activism

In 1865 Hood was selected president of a convention of free blacks in North Carolina, which met in Raleigh, North Carolina, and called for full citizenship and rights for all blacks. Hood was involved in many North Carolina political and social arenas that affected blacks. When Radical Reconstruction began nationwide in 1867, Hood along with other blacks in the state participated in the state convention to redesign the constitution. As required by the victorious Union, Confederate states were to bring the rights of their black citizens in accordance with Congressional Reconstruction. Hood as a convention delegate successfully promoted homestead laws, public education, and women's rights, which laid the foundation for black equality and benefited whites as well. Hood was so dynamic that the constitution, once ratified in 1868, was referred to as the Hood Constitution. To support the education component in the constitution, the position of agent of the state board of education was created. Hood held that position for three years. The position was eliminated in 1870 when the Democrats took control of the state legislature and amended many of the advances that Reconstruction had established.

General Otis O. Howard of the Freedmen's Bureau commissioned Hood as assistant superintendent of public instruction of North Carolina, with special duties for black children and temporarily as a magistrate. By 1870 Hood had placed 49,000 black children in public school and had established a department for the deaf, dumb, and blind. He also played a supporting role in establishing Fayetteville State University. The end of Reconstruction in North Carolina was imminent as Democrats eliminated Hood's position and went after other plans that supported black citizens. The educational plan and other advances that Hood helped develop were well established by the end of Reconstruction and did not fall easily to Democrats' and white Southerners' efforts to dismantle them. Hood served as a delegate to the National Republican convention in 1872 and as temporary chairman of the convention. The state constitution was amended in 1872 and no longer could be referred to as the Hood Constitution. With the election of Rutherford B. Hayes as president of the United States and the withdrawal of federal troops, Reconstruction came to an end in other parts of the South as well. In addition to suffering political loss, Hood experienced two personal losses: his father died in 1872, and his second wife, Sophia, died in 1875.

Affiliated with Fraternal Orders

Hood left few references to his affiliation with the fraternal order of Prince Hall, in line with the enforced secrecy of this society. Secret societies as well as the origins of the black church can be traced back to post-Revolutionary America when both groups served blacks as a means for finding autonomy and a sense of racial strength against racism in both the North and the South. Hood had become superintendent of the southern jurisdiction of the Prince Hall Masonic Grand Lodge of New York. A common goal of both the church and the societies was to uplift blacks through the art of social organized life. Although there were clear differences between these groups, the mutual benefits were recognized by blacks of the time. As many as two-thirds of the most prominent blacks in the United States in the early 1900s held memberships in both a fraternal order and the black church. Hood served as a moving force in bringing black Masonic lodges to the North Carolina region. In a trip to the fifth annual proceedings of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons for the state of North Carolina, Hood was honored as the "Most Worshipful Grand Master." From his 1864 arrival in North Carolina until 1874, eighteen Prince Hall lodges were established in the state with 478 members. Hood served as the "Grand Master of Masons of North Carolina" for fourteen years and as "Grand Patron of the Order of Eastern Star" for nineteen years.

Church Progress and Later Years

As the Reconstruction planning came to a close for North Carolina state government, Hood continued to move forward in the AMEZ Church. He was ordained as the seventeenth bishop of the AMEZ Church in 1872, and he married his third wife Keziah Price McKoy, a widow from Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1877. As a northerner and church organizer, Hood found that freed slaves were influenced by white religion that supported slave masters' beliefs in submission and subservience. Hood sought to transform these beliefs and to support social equality.

From 1864 to 1874, Hood oversaw the organization of 366 churches with over 20,000 members. He also helped lay the foundation for what became the denomination newspaper, the Star of Zion. In an effort to provide equal opportunities and training for roles in the church, Hood successfully advocated for women's equal rights in the denomination and for starting an institute for ministerial candidates. The church discipline was amended in 1876 to secure women's equal religious rights. The Zion Wesley Institute, a school for training ministers, was established in 1879 in Concord, North Carolina. Initially the institute lasted only three brief sessions and then it closed. Then in 1881 Hood and Joseph C. Price began raising money to re-establish the institute. The college was reopened due to a generous donation from the town of Salisbury, North Carolina, just twenty miles north of Concord, as well as the invitation to locate the college there. Price became the school's first president. Zion Wesley Institute was renamed Livingston College by an act of the legislature in 1887. Hood remained active with the college throughout his life and remained on the trustee board.

Hood published his first book in 1884, The Negro in the Christian Pulpit, a collection of sermons written and delivered primarily by Hood. As the black Baptists organized their first nationwide organization, the National Baptist Convention, Hood published One Hundred Years of African Methodist Episcopal Zion History in 1895. Hood continued as a key voice in the church and published The Plan of the Apocalypse in 1900, Sermons in 1908 and Sketches of the Early History of the AMEZ Church in 1914, which is a second volume of the church history.

Hood served churches in New Bern, Fayetteville, and Charlotte, North Carolina. He often moved and received less pay for his ministerial duties, but he did so because he recognized the needed growth of the AMEZ Church and was committed to the faith and racial uplift. In Fayetteville, he was the minister of Evans Chapel from 1867 to 1870. Hood was successful in bringing this congregation into the AMEZ Church. He was then transferred to Charlotte. He was working for the board of education at the time and would leave his office in Raleigh on Saturday and make the 175-mile trip to his church in Charlotte. This would get him to Charlotte in time to preach three sermons on Sunday and make the trip back to Raleigh on Monday. His involvement in so many aspects of the community enabled Hood to interact with some of the greatest leaders of the AMEZ Church, including Peter Ross, Christopher Rush, and J. J. Clinton. Hood was also advisor to Theodore Roosevelt on issues concerning African Americans. His opinion as bishop was called into play in particular as the AMEZ Church saw the ordination of Mary J. Small in 1898 as an elder. This event created a debate over the role of women, but Hood continued to advocate for women to receive the same religious rights as men.

Those who knew Hood characterized him as warm and generous, deliberate in his discourse, and frugal as he maintained meager circumstances but gave generously to public charities. In addition to his work, Hood's family life was full. He fathered ten children with six living past infancy. His third wife Keziah Hood was a kind and loving stepmother to Hood's children from his previous marriages. She was energetic and resourceful as she paid for their home from money she earned from sewing. She was a strong and supportive partner. All six of the Hood's children were educated at Livingston College. In 1916 Hood was placed in mandatory retirement but was called into active Episcopal service with the death of a key bishop. James Walker Hood died October 30, 1918 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He served as bishop of the AMEZ Church for forty-four years and as a minister for approximately sixty years. He contributed to uplifting the black race as a religious, political, and social servant of his people. Study of his life shows how thoroughly he practiced what he preached.



"James Walker Hood, 1831–1911." In Paths Toward Freedom: A Biographical History of Blacks and Indians in North Carolina by Blacks and Indians. Illus. James and Ernestine Huff. Raleigh, N.C.: North Carolina State University Center of Urban Affairs, 1976.

Kletzing, H. F., and W. H. Crogman. Progress of a Race. Atlanta, Ga.: J. L. Nichols & Co., 1898.

Martin, Sandy Dwayne. For God and Race: The Religious and Political Leadership of AMEZ Bishop James Walker Hood. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.


Hackett, David G. "The Prince Hall Masons and the African American Church: The Labors of Grand Master and Bishop James Walker Hook, 1831–1918." Church History 69 (December 2000): 770.

Hildebrand, Reginald F. "For God and Race: The Religious and Political Leader of a AMEZ Bishop James Walker Hood." Journal of Southern History 66 (November 2000): 872.


Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina Library. http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/hood100/bio.html (Accessed 6 February 2006).

Evans Metropolitan AME Zion Church. http://www.evansmetropolitan.org/bishopjameswalkerhood/ (Accessed 6 February 2006).


The Carter G. Woodson Collection, Chicago Public Library, Chicago, Illinois, has some of Hood's papers consisting of his unfinished autobiography and correspondence from leaders of his day. Related information can be found through collection of AMEZ Church Histories.

                                      Lean'tin L. Bracks