Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2020/Fall/105/Section003/Peter Carrey

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Peter Carrey
Other namesReverend Carey
EthnicityAfrican American
EducationMinisterial school in Richmond, Virginia and Wesleyan Seminary in Washington, DC
OccupationReverend, teacher

Overview[edit | edit source]

Reverend Carrey was an African American reverend during the the Great Depression. Carrey was an interviewee for the Federal Writers' Project.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early Life[edit | edit source]

Peter Carrey was born in a small town in Virginia. His parents were former slaves and they raised many kids together but could not afford to provide them all with meals or pay for their education. Although Carrey was full of shame going to school bringing only a small snack and wearing tarnished clothes, he appreciated his education and knew it was important. Carrey's passion for teaching and his faith first sparked when he was 16 years old and started his involvement in Sunday School and church. [1] Carrey’s pastor told him that he had the confidence and virtues to become a leader for black people. [1] His pastor inspired him to go to ministerial school in Virginia and DC to receive a holistic education.

Adult Life and Career[edit | edit source]

Reverend Carrey’s legend is shown by the many impoverished churches that he rebuilt and repurposed through physical and human capital. Not only would Reverend Carrey get materials and construct the churches, fixing anything that was broken, but he would also teach the community how to find spiritual meaning and trust God. He worked his way through life because “there was always work on farms everywhere for a willing worker” and he never took any job or opportunity for granted. [1] Reverend Carrey believes God’s purpose for him is to put more emphasis on teaching than preaching. [1] He admits his style of preaching does not suit everyone, but he is honest and tells people to acknowledge their sins first and then rectify all their sins to be forgiven. In his simple teachings, Reverend Carries tells his congregations to buy land and build a house of any size so that no one can own your property or control your decisions. [1]

Historical Context[edit | edit source]

Religion in the South during the 1930's[edit | edit source]

During the Great Depression, there were conflicting views on whether a higher power existed. Some people believed religion strengthened racial divides by providing false justification for slavery and the maltreatment of African Americans. While, some black people were taught their faith in God would reward them with a wonderful afterlife even if their time on earth was full of cruelties and injustices. As the South was known for having conservative ideals and clinging to christianity, this region was called the Bible Belt. Most white people kept their faith and prayed for the economy to rebound and for the continuation of white power. However, some black people resented Christ and saw him as a white savior who condoned segregation and treated black people as subhuman. [2] Many black, christian leaders emerged during this time and used their influence to give people hope and peace in God. For instance, Martin Luther King Jr. asked people to not focus on the color of Christ’s skin but to see his disposition and inspiration. [3] Some black people who lost faith during the Great Depression blamed God for their misfortunes and saw him as a symbol of white loyalty. [3] The concept of Christ became a white, wealthy, and powerful American cliche. [3] People felt hopeless and exhausted chasing after a God and constantly being disappointed, so many black people stopped going to church. Balancing one's faith and financial shortcomings during the 1930's was a recipe for disaster to some and a spiritual renewal for others.

Economy during the Great Depression[edit | edit source]

Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone, 02-1931 - NARA - 541927

African Americans suffered heavily from the economic recession as their jobs were stolen, their character was demoralized, and their rights were limited. Most black people could not hold or receive jobs during the biggest financial crisis in American history because they were evaluated based on their race instead of their performance. Some white people believed they could take everything from black people, including their jobs and belongings, because white people overlooked black people and made a false justification that their lives did not matter. Most white people did not see any consequences in treating black people as irreplaceable and inadequate in the labor force and in life. Another problem was the distribution of wealth and less than 5% of the population had more than a third of the country’s income. [4] In the southern economy, the African American population was struggling the most with Jim Crow Laws and open discrimination ensured that minority races remained at the bottom of the economy. Although no one was excused from the economic challenges, studies show that minority demographics, especially African Americans, had the highest unemployment rates. [4] As expected, the racial divides were relevant and correlated with the unemployment demographics. Black people have always been treated unjustly and were not given the same opportunities as majority races. On top of having limited rights and being segregated from most institutions, African Americans were given menial jobs and societal constructions forced them to live in ghettos and dangerous parts of town. [5] Since there was systematic, deeply rooted racism, it was almost impossible for black people to be successful and make it out of their impoverished communities without a good education system or job opportunities.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 6. Saunder, W. O.
  2. 5. Greenberg, Cheryl Lynn
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 1. The Color of Christ
  4. 4.0 4.1 4. Economic Problems
  5. 3. Collins, William

References[edit | edit source]

  • Blum, Edward J., and Paul Harvey. The Color of Christ The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
  • Byrd, W. Michael. and Linda A. Clayton. Anœ American Health Dilemma: A Medical History of African Americans and the Problem of Race: Beginnings to 1900. New York, NY: Routledge, 2000.
  • Collins, William J. Race and Twentieth-Century American Economic History. nber.org, 2006. https://www.nber.org/reporter/winter06/collins.html.
  • Economic Problems in the 1920s. BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zp77pbk/revision/2.
  • Greenberg, Cheryl Lynn. To Ask for an Equal Chance: African Americans in the Great Depression. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2011.
  • Saunders, W. O. A Taskmaster in the Vineyard of the Lord. Federal Writers’ Project, Folder 723. Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/03709/id/1357/rec/1