ENTRY

Bryan, C. Braxton (1852–1922)

SUMMARY

C. Braxton Bryan was an Episcopal minister and a proponent of African American education. Between 1893 and 1905, while serving as minister of Saint John’s Church in Hampton, he developed an interest in the students at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, which was founded to educate African Americans and Native Americans. At Hampton, Bryan also helped establish Saint Cyprian’s Church, the city’s first African American Episcopal congregation. Early in 1905 he moved to Petersburg and was elected dean and principal of the Bishop Payne Divinity School, the oldest theological seminary for the education of African American Episcopal clergymen in the South. Bryan, who believed that whites were a superior race, felt that Christian beliefs helped improve the lives of black Virginians and saw the promotion of African American education and spirituality as his responsibility.

Corbin Braxton Bryan was born on April 17, 1852, at Eagle Point in Gloucester County, the son of John Randolph Bryan and Elizabeth Tucker Coalter Bryan. His elder brothers included Joseph Bryan (1845–1908), the noted Richmond industrialist and newspaper publisher. Bryan was educated in various private schools and at Norwood Academy in Nelson County before entering the University of Virginia‘s engineering department in 1871. He felt himself called to the ministry after two years and enrolled in 1875 at the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Alexandria. Bryan graduated in 1878 and was ordained in June 1879. In 1882 he married Mary Sidney Caldwell Scott, of Lenoir, North Carolina. They had two sons and four daughters.

Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute

  • Church and Academic Hall
    Church and Academic Hall

    A photograph of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University) shows the school's chapel, with its 150-foot clock tower, and an academic building at right. The institute was founded in 1868 to educate the formerly enslaved; within a decade the education of Native Americans also became part of the school's mission. This image was taken in 1899 or 1900 by Frances Benjamin Johnston, a well-known photographer from Washington, D.C. Johnston was commissioned by the school's second principal, Hollis Burke Frissell, to document the institute and its students for the Paris Exposition of 1900.

  • Hampton Students Working on Telephones
    Hampton Students Working on Telephones

    Students repair and construct telephones in a class at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University). The institute was founded in 1868 to educate the formerly enslaved; within a decade the education of Native Americans also became part of the school's mission. This image was taken in 1899 or 1900 by Frances Benjamin Johnston, a well-known photographer from Washington, D.C. Johnston was commissioned by the school's second principal, Hollis Burke Frissell, to document the institute and its students for the Paris Exposition of 1900.

  • Students Studying Agricultural Science
    Students Studying Agricultural Science

    Students at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University) measure the amount of force being applied by the screws in cheese presses. This exercise was part of the curriculum devoted to agricultural science. The message on the blackboard behind the class reads in part, "In all its effects, learning the meaning of things is better than learning the meaning of words." The institute was founded in 1868 to educate the formerly enslaved; within a decade the education of Native Americans also became part of the school's mission. This image was taken in 1899 or 1900 by Frances Benjamin Johnston, a well-known photographer from Washington, D.C. Johnston was commissioned by the school's second principal, Hollis Burke Frissell, to document the institute and its students for the Paris Exposition of 1900.

  • Indian Wearing Traditional Clothing in American History Class
    Indian Wearing Traditional Clothing in American History Class

    Louis Firetail of the Crow Creek Sioux tribe wears traditional clothing and stands next to a bald eagle in an American history class at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University). The institute was founded in 1868 to educate the formerly enslaved; within a decade the education of Native Americans also became part of the school's mission. This image was taken in 1899 or 1900 by Frances Benjamin Johnston, a well-known photographer from Washington, D.C. Johnston was commissioned by the school's second principal, Hollis Burke Frissell, to document the institute and its students for the Paris Exposition of 1900.

  • Class in Liberal Arts and Sciences
    Class in Liberal Arts and Sciences

    Students at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University) mold clay to mimic objects hanging from easels attached to their desks. This exercise was part of a liberal arts and sciences class. The institute was founded in 1868 to educate the formerly enslaved; within a decade the education of Native Americans also became part of the school's mission. This image was taken in 1899 or 1900 by Frances Benjamin Johnston, a well-known photographer from Washington, D.C. Johnston was commissioned by the school's second principal, Hollis Burke Frissell, to document the institute and its students for the Paris Exposition of 1900.

  • Constructing a House
    Constructing a House

    Students at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University) work to finish the interior of a house that they built largely by themselves. The institute was founded in 1868 to educate the formerly enslaved; within a decade the education of Native Americans also became part of the school's mission. This carefully composed image was taken in 1899 or 1900 by Frances Benjamin Johnston, a well-known photographer from Washington, D.C. Johnston was commissioned by the school's second principal, Hollis Burke Frissell, to document the institute and its students for the Paris Exposition of 1900.

Bryan spent the years 1878–1881 in Lynnhaven Parish, Princess Anne County; the years 1881–1891 at Christ Church, Millwood, in Clarke County; the years 1891–1893 at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Danville; and the years 1893–1905 at Saint John’s Church in Hampton. At Hampton he developed a keen interest in the students at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University), including the Native Americans from the western states and territories. Bryan traveled to the West several times to visit the Indian schools from which many Hampton students came. He helped found Saint Cyprian’s Church, Hampton’s first African American Episcopal congregation, and he came to believe that the influence of Christianity would markedly improve the lives of black Virginians, for whom he believed that he and his fellow whites, as a superior race, had a special responsibility.

Bishop Payne Divinity School

During the academic year 1903–1904 Bryan received a D.D. from Hampden-Sydney College. Early in 1905 he moved to Petersburg to become the minister of Grace Episcopal Church, and on March 10 of that year he was elected dean and principal of the Bishop Payne Divinity and Industrial School (after 1910 the Bishop Payne Divinity School), which was also in Petersburg. Organized in 1881, it was the oldest theological seminary for the education of African American Episcopal clergymen in the South. Bishop Payne was a small institution boasting only four teachers and sixteen students in 1908, but by 1921 it had educated more than 60 percent of all the African American Episcopal ministers in the United States, and several of its alumni were serving as missionaries or ministers in other countries. Bryan served as dean and principal until his death.

Bryan also served as historiographer of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, from 1907 to 1919 was the diocese’s clerical delegate to the denomination’s national conventions, and was dean of the Central Convocation of Southern Virginia at the time of his death. He resigned from Grace Church in February 1922 because of poor health, and on March 12 of that year he suffered a heart attack while in Hampton, where he was conducting Sunday Lenten services at Saint John’s, his former church. Bryan traveled to Richmond, where he died at the home of a nephew on March 17, 1922. He was buried in Hollywood Cemetery in that city.

MAP
TIMELINE
April 15, 1852
Corbin Braxton Bryan is born at Eagle Point in Gloucester County, the son of John Randolph Bryan and Elizabeth Tucker Coalter Bryan.
1871
C. Braxton Bryan enters the University of Virginia's engineering department.
1875
C. Braxton Bryan enrolls at the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Alexandria.
1878
C. Braxton Bryan graduates from the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Alexandria.
1878—1881
C. Braxton Bryan is the minister in Lynnhaven Parish in Princess Anne County.
June 1879
C. Braxton Bryan is ordained an Episcopal minister.
1881—1891
C. Braxton Bryan is the minister at Christ Church, Millwood, in Clarke County.
1882
C. Braxton Bryan marries Mary Sidney Caldwell Scott, of Lenoir, North Carolina. They will have two sons and four daughters.
1891—1893
C. Braxton Bryan is the minister at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Danville.
1893—1905
C. Braxton Bryan is the minister at Saint John's Church in Hampton. He will help found Saint Cyprian's Church, Hampton's first African American Episcopal congregation.
1903—1904
C. Braxton Bryan receives a DD from Hampden-Sydney College.
1905
C. Braxton Bryan moves to Petersburg to become the minister of Grace Episcopal Church.
March 10, 1905
C. Braxton Bryan is elected dean and principal of the Bishop Payne Divinity and Industrial School, in Petersburg. It is the oldest theological seminary for the education of African American Episcopal clergymen in the South. Bryan holds these positions until his death in 1922.
1907—1919
C. Braxton Bryan serves as the Diocese of Southern Virginia's clerical delegate to the denomination's national conventions.
February 1922
C. Braxton Bryan resigns as minister of Grace Church because of poor health.
March 12, 1922
C. Braxton Bryan suffers a heart attack while in Hampton, where he was conducting Sunday Lenten services at Saint John's Church.
March 17, 1922
C. Braxton Bryan dies in Richmond at the home of a nephew. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery.
FURTHER READING
  • Tarter, Brent. “Bryan, Corbin Braxton.” In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 2, edited by Sara B. Bearss, et al., 343–344. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2001.
CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Tarter, Brent. Bryan, C. Braxton (1852–1922). (2021, February 12). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/bryan-c-braxton-1852-1922.
MLA Citation:
Tarter, Brent. "Bryan, C. Braxton (1852–1922)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (12 Feb. 2021). Web. 04 Aug. 2021
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