St. Augustine’s Bishop Delany and His Carolinas-Wide Charge

Delaney’s consecration. Image from History of the Afro-American Group of the Episcopal Church via Archive.org.

On May 15, 1918, Henry Beard Delany became the first black Episcopal bishop in North Carolina and only the second in the United States.

A portrait of Delaney in 1918. Image from the Archives of the Episcopal Church.A native Georgian who grew up in Florida, Delany came to North Carolina in 1881 when he enrolled at what’s now St. Augustine’s University. He remained at the school teaching courses, overseeing facility construction, serving as vice principal and, after he was ordained an Episcopal priest, as the school chaplain.

Delany was elected bishop “in charge of Negro work” and served in that capacity broadly across North and South Carolina.

His work is credited with the improvement of the quality of life among African Americans in the South. At his death, he was memorialized as having risen:

to a position of eminence in which he had won not only the esteem of his white colleagues throughout the country but also their love.

Two of Delany’s daughters became famous in the 1990s for their book Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years. The book was later adapted into a play and a film.

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