Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2018/Fall/Section 2/Harold Bearden

Harold Bearden (born 1910) was an African American, Methodist preacher. For most of his adult life, he lived in Athens, Georgia with his wife and three kids.[1]

Harold Bearden
Atlanta, Georgia
ResidenceAthens, Georgia
OccupationMethodist Minister


Early Life

Harold Bearden was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1910. He lived there with his parents until he was ten.[2] After his tenth birthday, his mother moved him to a small, Jewish neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois to be near his seven older siblings. His father stayed in Atlanta.[3] Bearden attended Forrestville Grammar School in Chicago until he was fifteen. There, he worked as captain of the junior police, head marshall of the school, and editor of the school paper.[4] Next, he went to Englewood High school for two years, where he became a sergeant in the junior ROTC and worked in the Booster Club. He was a leader of services in the Junior church of the African Methodist Episcopal church.[5] Two years later, Bearden moved back to Atlanta to live with his father and go to the high school at Clarke University where he worked as a member of the Philomathean Literary Society and Glee club.[6] After this, Bearden enrolled into Morris Brown college where he pursued a literary major for four years and then took an additional year for theological training. During his time in college, he was active in the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and the Political Science club.[7]

Adult Life

After college, Bearden stayed in Atlanta where he began working as a clerk at a grocery store.[8] He had to quit this job after injuring his hand on the job. It was then that Bearden began pursuing ministry as his life's work. He first worked a year in Fountain Chapel church and then another year at St. John's church, both in Atlanta, Georgia.[9] After this, he was sent to Austell, Georgia where he worked a year at St. Paul's church. He got married six months into his stay there.[10] He was then sent to a neighborhood called Blanton in Atlanta, Georgia where he preached for a year at Little Bethel Church.[11] Next, Bearden worked a four-year pastorate at Turner's Chapel in Marietta, Georgia. Finally, he worked as a pastor in a church in Athens, Georgia.[12] Here, Bearden also worked as financial secretary for his church conference and as "conference president of the Allen Endevour League".[13] Beyond that, he volunteered as a member of the Board of Control for the Christian Recorder and as a trustee for the Morris Brown College.[14] His time of death is unknown.

Social Issues that Impacted his LifeEdit

Historically Black Colleges

In the twentieth century, it was still relatively difficult for African Americans to get an education. Often times, the will was there but factors such as money to pay for higher education were big roadblocks.[15] More than that, African Americans had to deal with the issue of their schools being tossed aside and only looked upon for improvements after the white schools had gotten theirs.[16] In fact, "as public financial support for white schools grew during the years prior to World War I, black schools largely remained neglected."[17] It was only with the help of funds such as the "Phelps-Stokes Fund" that everyday African Americans were able to begin to see a way to achieve higher education.[18] This fund was created in 1911, and it worked consistently to provide African Americans with the means to get an education, both in the United States and in Africa.[19] With the first Historically Black college coming to pass in 1837 and many coming up after that, African Americans of the time were beginning to get a better chance at higher education. [20] However, big improvements were slow to come such as how “in 1930, Fisk University was the only institution for Negroes in the South that met in full the standards set up by the Association for four-year colleges, and consequently it was the only college to receive an "A" rating.”[21] Eventually, schools began seeing the importance of African American education, and it steadily became easier for them to find opportunities not offered in years past.[22]

The African American, Methodist Church

In 1790, a free African American man named Richard Allen created the first African methodist church within an old blacksmith shop.[23] The idea of separating the church by race was not new, but it was the first time someone decided to actually start an all African American church. At the time, even black ministers believed it to be best in order for everyone to get what they needed from a service without politics getting in the way.[24] African American pastors of the time believed that “racial division in American Protestantism may be in conflict with what Jesus would wish, but colored people are not responsible for it.”[25] There were often times when the black churches had to stand up to fight for political views as well, and the "approximately four million Negro Baptists and about one and a half million Negro Methodists” of the 1940's were very willing to do so.[26] Whether it was standing up against lynchings or unlawful violations against their community, the church was willing to stand up and protest against those who would do them harm.[27] While it is true that many white people of the time were willing to let them be, there were also many who saw them as a threat to their peace. A particular instance in 1937 depicted this perfectly, when a community of white churches in Brooklyn protested the sale of one of the buildings nearby to a Black Methodist church.[28]


  1. Harold Bearden Federal Writer's Project Interview
  2. Harold Bearden Federal Writer's Project Interview
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid
  7. Ibid
  8. Ibid
  9. Ibid
  10. Ibid
  11. Ibid
  12. Ibid
  13. Ibid
  14. Ibid
  15. The Journal of Negro Education, "Current Events of National Importance in Negro Education."
  16. William Link, “Jackson Davis and the Lost World of Jim Crow Education.”
  17. Ibid
  18. The Washington Post, "Negro Education."
  19. Ibid
  20. Ibid
  21. The Journal of Negro Education, "Current Events of National Importance in Negro Education."
  22. Ibid
  23. Harold Bearden Federal Writer's Project Interview
  24. Jesse Atwood, "Negro Ministers and the Color Line in American Protestantism."
  25. Ibid
  26. Jerome Holland, "The Role of the Negro Church as an Organ of Protest."
  27. Ibid