Skip to main content

Samuel Moss Carter Papers

Call Number: RG 268

Scope and Contents

Sermons, writings and notes, teaching materials, and personal items provide substantive documentation of the work of Dr. Samuel Moss Carter, an early African American graduate of the Yale Divinity School.

As noted in a letter from Carter's daughter, the donor of the collection, "Dr. Carter's collected works provide a unique and intimate portrait of a dedicated Baptist minister and theologian and reflect the tenor of the country from the late 1930s through the 1970s, and in particular the influence that the Yale experience undoubtedly had on his ministry."

Combining pastoral work with academic work throughout his career, Carter had a particular interest in documenting Black Christianity in the United States. His 1957 Master's thesis was titled "Representative Negro Baptist Preachers" and the dissertation he prepared for a Yale Ph.D degree (not completed) was "The Religion of the American Negro Slave."

The many sermons by Carter and his writings and notes on Black preaching in this collection provide unique insight on the Black church in the mid-20th century. In an interview for a newspaper article published in Richmond News Leader at the time of his retirement as pastor of First Baptist Church of Centralia, Carter indicated that he had noticed four kinds of Black preachers over the years: "The first kind is the kind like up north, who follow the white method. They just stand up there and talk nice. Another is the ones who sing the Gospel, who have what you call 'The Tone.' Then there's the 'emphasis' kind, the kind identified with Virginia. They just know how to emphasize different words, and to just use a lovely emphasis. The last kind is the kind that combines all of that."

Carter was a meticulous keeper of records, saving notes, papers, syllabi, and writings from throughout his long life. In most cases, materials in the collection have been kept together according to the labels on folders that Carter created, though the folders may have contained a fairly wide spectrum of types of material.

Series I, Sermons / Addresses, is divided according to different systems that Carter had in place to file his sermons, including by theme, by a numbered sequence, and by date. Series II, Course-Related Materials, is divided into two sections, "Courses taken" and "Courses taught." While every effort has been made to distinguish between the two types of material, not all documents were well-marked. The Notes of Series III have been organized alphabetically by topic. Again in this series, the lines between topics may be quite blurry, but a sense of Carter's interests shows through clearly. The notes include both handwritten notes and collected articles or newsclippings. The writings of Series IV include a few published items as well as essays written while at Yale Divinity School and other unpublished essays. Series V contains primarily documentation of institutions and organizations that Carter served. Series VI, Personal Items and Memorabilia, includes a small amount of correspondence as well as biographical documentation and photographs, including of his time at Yale Divinity School.


  • 1923 - 1995


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Symone B. Scales, 2015-2016


  1. I. Sermons / Addresses
  2. II. Course-Related Materials
  3. III. Notes
  4. IV. Writings
  5. V. Related to Organizations / Institutions
  6. VI. Personal Items and Memorabilia


14.5 Linear Feet (36 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Sermons, writings, notes, teaching materials, and personal items provide substantive documentation of the life and work of Dr. Samuel Moss Carter, an early African American graduate of the Yale Divinity School, who was a Baptist pastor and professor of Church History, primarily in Virginia.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Moss Carter was born October 20, 1904, in New Haven, Pennsylvania and grew up in Columbus, Ohio. He was a third generation Baptist minister; his father, Rev. John Wesley Carter later served for a time at the prominent Providence Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois.

After receiving a B.A. from Ohio State University in 1927, Carter went on to study at the Yale Divinity School, one of few students of color at the time. He graduated with a B.D. in 1930 and continued graduate study toward a Ph.D. at Yale but did not complete the degree.

Following his time at Yale Divinity School, Carter served as Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Shaw University in North Carolina and served as a pastor in Baptist churches, including in Winston, North Carolina. In 1944 he became the pastor of First Institutional Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 1948 he left Florida to work at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, serving as Dean for three years and as Professor of Church History and Missions at Virginia Union University and the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond until 1979. In 1950, Carter became pastor of First Baptist Church, Centralia, Virginia, where he served for forty years before retiring in 1990.

Carter received a Master in Theology in 1957 and a D.D. from Union Theological Seminary in 1982. He died on May 5, 1999.

Guide to the Samuel Moss Carter Papers
Martha Lund Smalley and Margaret Mary Stapleton Smith
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

409 Prospect Street
New Haven CT 06511 US
(203) 432-5301

Opening Hours