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(1923) Bishop Randall Albert Carter, “Whence and Whither”

By the standards of African American history, Bishop Randall Albert Carter is a little known figure. Born in Fort Valley, Georgia on January 1, 1867, he was educated at Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina and Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. An active pastor in the Colored (later Christian) Methodist Episcopal Church, he was elected Bishop at the denomination’s national convention in St. Louis in 1914. On May 30, 1923, Bishop Carter was asked to give the Commencement Address at his alma mater, Paine College. He used the occasion to challenge his audience to set lofty personal goals and maintain high ethical standards even in the face of overwhelming racial bigotry. This presentation is included precisely because it was typical of many thousands of speeches given by hundreds of African American orators during the era of segregation. His presentation appears below.

I presume the reason I have been invited to come back to Paine College and talk to you today, after thirty years of fighting and climbing, until I have gained some laurels and reached the top of my calling, is that you may have the privilege of reading some pages out of my book of experience. As I stand here today in this beautiful chapel I can scarcely realize that more than three decades have passed since I walked, with others, from the old remodeled horse stables, which, in those days, served as dormitories and classrooms on this campus, down to old Trinity to the commencement exercise, and dreamed great dreams as I received my diploma from the hands of the lovable, lamented George Williams Walker. I little knew then to what I was going, when I stepped forth that day, eager, happy and hopeful, into the great world to make a name for myself. If I had known what awaited me perhaps I would have shrunk back aghast. However, I can say with all modesty, I have fought bravely, I have kept the faith fairly well, and I have weathered the many storms and fierce gales of spars and sails. And, today I have returned to the home port, like some

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