Inspiring Genius: Howard University (1909-1918)
The freshman class at Howard University in 1909 was the largest in the institution’s forty-two-year history. Howard University was fast becoming one of the nation’s premier institutions of higher learning for blacks. The university’s founding in 1867 directly corresponded with the influx of freedmen into Washington, D.C. following Emancipation, and the Missionary Society of the First Congregational Church’s response to the education and training of those new Northern arrivals. Howard University stressed a stringent academic program that included Greek, Latin, English, logic, foreign language, philosophy and the mental and moral sciences in its artium baccalaureatus requirements. The university’s former president, Dr. John Gordon, had attempted to introduce into the university’s curricula industrial education and forced manual labor, but faced the ire of both faculty and students. Following Gordon’s announcement of industrial education, a protest was launched by faculty groups and students, who believed such a decision as an affront to both their social positions and cognitive abilities. The Greek and Latin requirements for the A.B. degree would ultimately be removed and manual labor introduced under the Thirkield administration. Thirkield acquiesced to this system of training in exchange for Booker T. Washington’s position on the Board of Trustees and his assistance in securing funds from Andrew Carnegie for the building of a new library.
Edgar Love began his coursework with vigor in the university’s fledgling theological department. Designed “for those who desired to consecrate their lives to Christian and missionary work,” the theological department was relatively small and obscure, as the university began to place more institutional emphasis on the wide array of professions opening up to blacks, particularly law and medicine. Still, the university’s president, Dr. Wilbur Patterson Thirkield was a staunch supporter of the theological department, envisioning an “intelligent and consecrated ministry” for blacks. A year prior to Edgar Love’s enrollment at Howard University, Thirkield would write in the manual Education and National Character that the “largest hope for the moral and religious life of the Negro is in the pulpit” and that the “preacher is still the center of power.” Thirkield, a white man who served as president of Howard University from 1906 until he was elected to the bishopric of the Methodist church in 1912, had long been a champion of the education of blacks, having served as the first president of Gammon Theological Seminary between 1883 and 1900 and as general secretary of the Freedmen’s Aid and Southern Education Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Educated at Ohio Wesleyan University and Boston University, and received his Doctor of Divinity from the latter, Thirkield particularly championed the cause of the black theologian. To Howard University, he would bring the belief that “only through a trained, high-souled and consecrated ministry endued [sic] with intelligence and power can the young people of the present generation be drawn and saved to the church."
Despite Wilbur Thirkield’s interest in the theological department, Dr. Isaac Clark, who served as the dean of the School of Religion from 1901-1916, in an address at the Inauguration of the Reverend John Gordon as president of Howard University in 1904, would state that the theological department was “first in the thoughts of the [Howard University] founders,” but “last in formal organization.” As a result, the department suffered from a paucity of resources and lack of interest from university leaders. Further, he stated from the pulpit of the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, “let it be confessed that the Department has not stood for highest scholarship and this of necessity, for, as a rule, those who have come to the Department have come without the scholarship which a college course might give them—many of them without the attainments of a preparatory course. So, coming in they could not go out accomplished scholars.” With the arrival of the 1909 class, however, a paradigm shift was occurring with respect to the scholarly preparation of incoming freshman. While incoming classes prior to 1909 had often been comprised of freedmen with little intellectual training, forty-four years had passed since Emancipation freed black slaves and forty two years since Howard University had been founded. Ten classes had since matriculated from the fledgling university and a class of second-generation college students (Edgar Love among them) was entering its hallowed halls. Though the theological department would remain comparatively small, the arrival of highly-skilled pupils with preparatory school backgrounds infused he Howard theological community with new and much-needed vigor. In a sense, Edgar Love came alive at Howard University, ingratiating himself into the campus community, immersing himself in the culture and social life of Washington, D.C. and experiencing a sort of personal Aufklärung while a student in the nation’s capitol.
Handsome, fair-toned and thin yet of a sturdy build, Love had early become romantically involved with a young sorority woman from a prominent North Carolina family, Delta Sigma Theta Founder, Edith Young. A consummate athlete, Love was a member of the football team and played croquet in his spare time. His proclivity for logic and public speaking had won him an election as president of the Kappa Sigma Debating Club. As a student, Love performed well in his freshman Bible, French, English, history, trigonometry and physics courses, though his intellectual acumen did not reach its fullest potential until his junior and senior years. As a tribute to Love’s immense popularity, as a freshman student he was nominated class president by fellow student Frank Coleman, sparking a lifelong camaraderie and friendship that would survive for decades. It was later written that Edgar Love and Frank Coleman had been bound by bands of “religion, culture and tradition.” Coleman, like Love, came from a well-to-do black family, had graduated from the Preparatory Academy for Colored Youth in Washington, D.C., and had come to Howard University in 1909 to study physics. Edgar Love and Frank Coleman would meet Oscar James Cooper that same year. Though a bright and ambitious young man, Cooper did not descend from a highly reputable or prominent family, like most of the Howard students of the day. Educated in the public schools of Washington, D.C., the precocious young man worked away from home the summer prior to his enrollment at Howard University in order to supplement his parents‟ financial contributions and defray his educational costs." Cooper was made, due both to his intellectual abilities and tentative financial position, an assistant in a promising young instructor from Dartmouth University’s laboratory in that same year. Through Oscar Cooper, Edgar Love and Frank Coleman also became acquainted with Ernest Just, laying the framework for Just, as one of black America’s most promising professionals to mentor them affectionately as the “three musketeers.”
Dr. Ernest Everett Just joined the Howard University faculty in 1909 to assist with the school’s burgeoning department of biological sciences. Just had graduated with highest honors from Dartmouth in 1907, earning a coveted Phi Beta Kappa key, as the only African-American in his graduating class. Lonely as his tenure at Dartmouth might have been, equally remarkable were Just’s academic achievements. Just received honors in botany, history and sociology; special honors in zoology and was one of only five senior Rufus Choate scholars, a distinction for Dartmouth students graduating in the top fifth percentile of their class and named after the Dartmouth alumnus who was widely regarded as one of the greatest trial lawyers of his day. Still, the specter of racism loomed hugely over Just’s head, which, coupled with his young age, directly contributed to his involvement in many of Howard’s extracurricular activities. By all accounts, the charming and refined Just had lived a life of relative loneliness and seclusion while at Dartmouth. At Howard, Just experienced the camaraderie of the university’s confraternity of learned, well-bred blacks. While there, Just started a drama club and often spent his social hours with students playing tennis, swimming or attending field trips. When Love, Cooper and Coleman approached Ernest Just and asked him to serve as adviser for a fraternal organization they intended to found, Just quickly accepted. Having been a member of the all-male Philadelphian Club during his days at Kimball Union Academy despite being the only black at the institution, the notion of fraternal camaraderie was particularly attractive to Just, who offered his guidance and undivided assistance to Frank Coleman, Oscar Cooper and Edgar Love not only in the founding of their fraternal order, but also during their undergraduate careers and beyond.
By the beginning of his junior year at Howard University, Edgar Love was fast becoming one of the most popular young men on the campus. Returning from their summer vacations, Love and Oscar James Cooper, standing atop the steps of the University Building, surveyed the campus' male population. Their professional plans developed and having established themselves as campus leaders, Love and Coleman sought to gain a greater sagacity as to why students attended Howard University, reasoning that while some came merely because of parental decision and others in order to find mates, the lions share came out of a feeling of obligation to their respective communities and a need to be trained for service to those communities. Committed to social justice in much the same way, Edgar Love began to envision a fraternal organization committed to social justice.
For more than a year, Love had studied the campus ‟already-existing fraternity, but had drawn the conclusion that the members of the organization were a “bigoted group who were status conscious.” That group, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity which was founded in 1906 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, was, according to Love, reserved solely for “men who had money to spend, or who had great family backings or even color consciousness.” In Love’s final analysis, the organization was a divisive, rather than unifying presence on Howard University’s campus and “did not represent what… a fraternity ought to represent.” Instead,Love conceptualized an organization that was not “a status club, but a fraternity; a brotherhood of high minded, serious thinking, noble living men; leaders, not followers, makers and molders of opinion.” Though Love possessed all of the unique traits that often characterized members of Alpha Phi Alpha (his parents were both mulatto members of the emerging black middle class, educated beyond the secondary level and were highly prominent members of the Methodist Episcopal community), his staunch opposition to classism might be attributed to the example of social justice and community activism set forth by his parents during his youth, as well as sympathy for his budding friendship with Oscar Cooper, who hailed from a lower working class family but had proved himself to be a friend to Love during his first two years at the university.
As thunder boomed and clapped in the distance and lightning lit the autumn sky, Edgar Love, Oscar Cooper and Frank Coleman met surreptitiously in Ernest Just’s office in the Science Hall on Friday evening, November 17, 1911 to discuss the matter of founding the first black fraternity at a predominately black institution of higher learning. The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, derived from the Greek letters meaning “friendship is essential to the soul,” would be founded that night. Following the organization’s founding, Love, Cooper and Coleman scoured the campus seeking men they believed could uphold the newly-founded organization’s commitments to scholarship and social uplift. At the second meeting of the fraternity on Thursday, November 23, 1911, Edgar Love was voted the fraternity’s Grand Basileus and his two brothers, Julius Henderson Love and William Albert Love were selected along with eight other Howard University students to comprise the first initiates and charter members into the organization. Their next step would be to submit a formal constitution to Dr. Thirkield and Deans Kelly Miller and George Cook for official faculty approval. Howard University had been known to possess a lingering and pervasive tradition of censorship; therefore, the vociferous and instantaneous opposition to the founding of an all-black fraternal order on the university’s campus came as little shock to Edgar Love and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity’s leadership. What would prove to be the true rift within the lute, however, would be Kelly Miller’s objection to the formation of another fraternal organization at Howard University. Miller, who had been initiated into the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity through the organization’s Beta chapter at Howard University, had been the catalyst behind Love’s attending Howard University. As dean, Miller exploited his office in order to hinder the growth of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and to attempt to persuade Love, Cooper and Coleman to join the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and perpetuating the notion that an all-black secret society in Washington, D.C. might be an incubus for impropriety. Wilbur Thirkield, too, was opposed to the formation of a fraternal organization at Howard, for fear that the organization might prove to be radical in its organization and offend the institution’s largely white, exceedingly conservative Board of Trustees or that it might engage in illicit activities as a university-sanctioned organization. Despite the high scholastic and civic achievements of the members of Omega Psi Phi, the faculty feared that a secret organization on their campus was untrustworthy. Consequently, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity’s constitution was promptly and peremptorily rejected.
Undeterred, Love and the other members of the organization arose one morning and placed three-and-a-half-by-six-inch placards on trees, bulletin boards and on fences announcing the existence of the organization and enumerating its founders and charter members. From the pulpit of the Rankin Memorial Chapel the next morning, Dr. Thirkield rebuked Love and the other members of the organization, declaring to the more than two thousand students and faculty members in attendance that no such organization existed on Howard University’s campus and demanded that the seventeen young men involved in the canvassing effort immediately report to his office at the close of chapel. Rebounding quickly from the embarrassing spectacle, Love called for and was granting an informal meeting with Dr. Thirkield. The recalcitrant university president yet again rebuked Love, Cooper and Coleman for their insubordination, accusing them of insolence and threatening them with suspension or expulsion for their behavior. Resolutely, Love reiterated his position that, contrary to faculty misapprehensions, members of the fraternity ranked among the campus‟ highest achieving students and were represented in most of the institution’s auxiliary organizations. As a concession to Thirkield, Cook and Miller, Love and the fellow founders of the organization agreed that the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity would be subject to disbanding should it, at any time, exhibit immoral tendencies or become involved in illicit affairs. Several adjustments were made to the organization’s constitution prior to its acceptance by the university. The organization, however, would benefit more from administrative changes than the softening of institutional deportment toward secret societies; Wilbur Thirkield left Howard University in June 1912 to assume a position as bishop in the Methodist Church while Kelley Miller’s role within the campus would be greatly reduced. Two years later under the administration of Dr. Stephen Morrell Newman, former pastor of First Congregational Church in Washington, D.C., Howard University withdrew its opposition to the organization’s expansion into a national fraternity, and Omega Psi Phi would be granted full incorporation by the United States Congress under the laws governing the District of Columbia on October 28, 1914.
Born in Falmouth Maine, Newman was an 1867 graduate of Bowdoin College and an 1871 graduate of Andover Theological Seminary. Prior to the presidency at Howard University, Newman had held the top posts at Eastern College in Fort Royal, Virginia and Kee Mar College for Women in Hagerstown, Maryland. Aside from a heightened global perspective, Newman was more liberal than Thirkield, which might have also influenced his decision to withdraw institutional opposition to the formation of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. During the 1910-1911 school year Edgar Love’s grades suffered, primarily due to his increased involvement in the affairs of Omega Psi Phi and his ongoing feud with the Howard University administration, as well as the greater difficulty of sophomore-level courses in German, French and chemistry. Love excelled, however, in courses such as history and English. Academically, however, he would hit his stride in his senior year. A prolific orator, Love’s student record indicates a propensity for both argumentation and public speaking, as Love scored high marks in both subjects. Training under renowned Harvard-educated author and historian Benjamin G. Brawley, Edgar Love perfected what would later be described as a “simple but effective” speaking style that would become his trademark. Love also took his first Bible Literature course in his senior year, a precursor to his post-baccalaureate work in divinity. Love fulfilled the requirements for the artium baccalaureatus degree on June 4, 1913, graduating with honors from the institution. Ordained a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church in 1915, Love also pursued and obtained a Bachelor of Divinity from Howard University in 1916, one of only seven students to graduate from the School of Theology in that year.
Though Love had shown a particular propensity for leadership and organization, he became increasingly outspoken and militant in toto caello opposition to the quiet, conservative Congregational environment at Howard. Sometimes known for his sharp tongue, Love utilized Omega Psi Phi as the conduit through which his concept of noblesse oblige could be brought into fruition. Love would often be quoted saying, with respect to the organization’s membership, that “there is a place for mediocrity in our society, but not in Omega.” While the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity was certainly an elite organization, featuring many of Howard University’s most prominent students on its membership roster, it was not elitist in its infrastructure in that it accepted members whose families were first generation college students or who hailed from lower class backgrounds. In its mission, however, was deeply rooted in the concept of a black gifted class. From the first, the men of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity committed themselves to the scriptural edict that “unto whomsoever much has been given, of him shall much be required.” While predominately black fraternal orders founded at other institutions were primarily social orders, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity involved itself in the fight for social justice early in its organization. Though the concept of a black intellectual class might, by contemporary standards, seem patrician, it is important to note several important factors that made such a philosophy pragmatic for black leadership during the early 1900s. First, the concept of a talented few, as envisioned most famously and most cogently by sociologist Dr. W.E.B. DuBois (and, ultimately, by Edgar Love) was neither seminal to DuBois, nor fatuous.
The Darwinian principle of the survival of the fittest, widely accepted by the scientific community at the turn of the century, would be adapted by Episcopal priest Alexander Crummel and re-interpreted to include the duty of the educated black elite to preach, teach and lead the mass of black people into monogamy, cleanliness and thrift. Second, the propitiation of a “guiding hundredth” ideology was the means through which the black intelligentsia combated the popular misapprehensions about black life that stereotyped blacks as licentious, morally bankrupt, spiritually ill and cognitively deficient vis-à-vis whites. In that respect, Love was merely a product of his time and had been indoctrinated into one of the most prevalent schools of thought of the era. The rift within the lute of the Crummel and DuBois theories would be pointed out by DuBois himself, who advanced that, in addition to an education befitting intelligent leadership, it was condicio sine qua non that they possess “willingness to work and make sacrifice” in order to address what period nomenclature commonly termed the “Negro problem.” It appears both in his professional life and the early organization of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, that Edgar Love was acutely aware of the degree of moral rectitude and commitment to racial uplift one in the black intelligentsia must possess. Love would advance that members of Omega must be men “of sterling worth, with unsullied character” with “perseverance, which is that attribute of character which holds one steadfast to a purpose or to a cause” and the rectitude “to lend himself to the coexistence of his fellow men.” The relative affluence of early members of the fraternity, counting prominent educators, physicians, lawyers and others in the professions among its ranks, merely underscored the intellectual capacity of black intelligent leadership, not necessarily their commitments to work and sacrifice. In effect, DuBois, Love and the early members of Omega Psi Phi lived lives unencumbered by the onerous constraints of being both black and poor in the United States. As a result, their peculiar interpretations of the American Dream and approaches to racial uplift were rooted in a sense of optimism that would be lost on future generations of race leaders. Those interpretations, however, were not chimerical by any standard; they merely failed to adequately address issues of moral fabric with respect to intelligent leadership and the visceral reactions the perceived social caste system would inadvertently produce within both the upper, middle and lower classes in the black community. The growth of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity was, in its early years, snail’s-paced as Love and the organization’s Supreme Council refused to allow the formation of chapters at predominately white institutions whereby organization would necessitate induction of all or most of the institution’s black students (a direct contradiction of Love’s own, unique theories of a meritorious black leadership class).
Until 1915, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity existed only at Howard University and at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. As Love transitioned to Boston University for post-baccalaureate studies, a chapter was allowed for students in Boston, Massachusetts. While Edgar Love’s theological training at Howard University had suffered due to the oversight of the institution’s founders, at Boston University he encountered a rigorous academic program in sacred theology that greatly challenged his conventional ecumenical wisdom. Boston University was an epicenter of liberal religious ideologies during the early 1900s under the deanship of Dr. Lauress J. Birney. Boston University’s School of Theology was pioneering in several respects, particularly as the oldest theological seminary of American Methodism in the United States, as well as for having admitted both blacks and women to all degree programs from its beginnings. Boston University’s curriculum, in contrast to Howard University, focused on scholarly pursuits and recruited many of the nation’s most promising young theologians. As lectures began on September 21st, 1916, Love found himself surrounded by some of the greatest academic minds in the theological world, studying with a veritable pantheon of theological geniuses, including Paradise Found author William F. Warren, missionary Harlan Page Beach and Albert C. Knudson, a foremost theorist in the school of thought that came to be known as Boston personalism. Love’s philosophical beliefs were informed by Albert Knudson and the Boston personalist ethos as Knudson taught courses in Old Testament Theology, Prophetic Literature and Beginning Hebrew. Albert Knudson’s philosophical ideologies both informed and, in a sense, dominated his theology. Despite his inclinations toward the empirical, Knudson still believed that the fundamental source of theological authority was the “human mind quickened by the divine spirit.” Knudson perceived personalism to be the intellectual foundation of Christian theology and eschewed a belief in divine revelation as self-authenticating. Positing that the person was the ontological absolute, Boston personalism taught an ideology that man was the anthropomorphic “clue” to reality with God and that God was the ideal personality to which man should aspire. The core tenet of Boston personalism emerges in Love’s statement that man was created by God “as the highest expression of His creation” and should be “the embodiment of the ideals and purposes of God.” Further, personalism espoused a belief in the inherent dignity and equality of all humankind, which was particularly attractive to Love and laid the framework for the ideology that would later become black liberation theology. That theology would be inculcated by Love, as evinced by a sermon to the African Methodist Episcopal Preacher’s Meeting in 1928, in which Love emphasized, in forceful terms, that God “seeks not sacrifices and tithes such as a ritual might demand, but…seeks also relief and aid for the poor and oppressed.” Love’s theological training at Boston University, augmented by Knudsonian Boston personalism, would develop within the young student a radical philosophy that combined elements of the social gospel, philosophical theology and universalism. Much like theologian, former Morgan College and Howard University instructor and Voice of the Negro editor John Wesley Edward Bowen, widely regarded as the first African American personalist, Love adapted the Boston personalist ideology to address social justice issues in the black community and Christianity as a means of assuaging social tensions.
Little has been said thus far of Edgar Love as a theologian, and this of necessity, for Edgar Love’s primary life’s work involved ecclesiastical and human rights leadership as opposed to expository theological writing. Though Knudsonian personalism would ultimately inform those dual roles, Love’s scholarly writings were primarily concerned with the theology of black liberation (a theme that would recur in Love’s writing). A closer analysis of Edgar Love’s bachelor of sacred theology senior thesis, aptly titled “Messianism Up to and Including the Time of Christ,” however, proves that that Love’s was a deeply incisive and astute theological mind. The selected topic itself was one that challenged conventional religious dogma and perhaps Love’s privately-held beliefs, as well. In his thesis, Love traces the development of the concept of Messianism throughout Judeo-Christian history. Love defends the Christian principle of Jesus-as-Messiah, though the study is not meant to be an example of Christology. Neither is Love’s thesis a study in the religious doctrine of salvation. Love observed that the concept of a Messiah was not universal, even in Toraic literature. Rather, he found that Messianism a matter of prophetic interpretation and relative to the experiences of the prophets, and outlined the ubiquitous meaning of the term “Messiah” in Judeo-Christian literature (beginning as a conception of a military leader who would create a Jewish theocratic state, then evolving into a conception of a preternatural, god-like individual whose death would usher in the coming of the otherworldly New Jerusalem). Love’s theology is elucidated by his eschewing of apocalyptic texts, particularly those of New Testament origin. Love cites the enculturation of Greek literary styles as the basis for this contention, reasoning that the marriage of “the Greek spirit of art, which on Greek soil found expression in sculpture and skillful decoration” and the “passionate word painting” of Hebrew prophets due to Antiochus Epiphanes‟ forced Greek naturalism resulted from “the political degradation and consequent misery of the nation in the times immediately succeeding Alexander,” which resulted in the New Testament eschatological tradition. “As religious literature, however,” Love writes, “it is very inferior to the prophetic. Nevertheless, it is an important source of Messianic hope.” That hope, at least for the Jews of antiquity, was inextricably linked to the Jewish identity and a form of jingoism whereby the Messiah’s salvific qualities were reserved solely for the Jews. Having been enslaved in Egypt and expelled from the prophesied Promised Land, the Jewish prophetic tradition foretold a Messiah as the fulfillment of a Jewish theocratic state. This conception of the Messiah, according to Love, contradicted the Christian premise of a “personal Messiah” whose presence brought spiritual freedom amid physical bondage. As a matter of fact, the Jewish tradition espoused the binary opposite: a Messiah who would bring physical freedom from physical and spiritual bondage. The concept of a personal Messiah was coincident with the persecution of the early Christians. Though Love’s thesis cast aspersions on both Jewish and Christian dogma, he concludes that: “The hope of the coming of God’s Kingdom is still alive in us; it is yet regarded as the one divine far off event towards which the whole creation moves. ‟ Our idea as to what the Kingdom is to be differs from the idea of the devout in Jesus‟ day. It is a term which today carries with it tremendous social implications and the promise of deliverance from social ills. But we still believe in the Kingdom as of God and we still pray “Thy Kingdom come.” Love’s concluding statement is important in defining his personal beliefs.
Love would draw the ire of the Baltimore religious community years later when he eschewed a belief in hell as a literal place, showcasing his break with the conventional Christian wisdom regarding the Apocalypse. The concept of the coming of a Messiah as marking a period of deliverance from “social ills,” then, forecast the Boston University graduate student’s evolving world view. Love never delves into the divinity of Jesus in his master’s thesis; such was neither the primary goal of his thesis, nor the purpose of his life. Much like the concepts of Messianism were interpreted based upon the cultural outlook of Jews in exile and Jews under Greco-Roman influence, so was Edgar Love’s incisive analysis of the evolution of Messianic theology informed by and very much a soliloquy of the peculiar life of a “Negro” in America. As such, Love felt it necessary to not “remove this Messianic element from the history of the career of Jesus, as he believed it “impossible to understand much of what He said and did without it.” As noted, however, Love is careful not to discuss the divinity of Jesus; rather, he establishes the Messiah as varying in nature in accordance with religious interpretation. While he posits that “Christianity has eternal worth apart from its Jewish factors,” he readily admits that “if He had been born a Greek Jesus would not have thought of Himself as the Messiah but being born a Jew it was inevitable that He should…He would not have set His teaching within the framework of Jewish messianism, but being born a Jew, it was inevitable that He should.” It becomes increasingly clear that Edgar Love’s ideation about Jesus is that he was, above all, one who interpreted the office of Messiah as one in which its benefactor must, foremost, impart hope to those individuals on the fringes of society. Of particular note is the fact that Love observes that, according to Christian literature, Jesus was not always aware that he was a/the Messiah, but that it occurred at an epiphanical moment during which it was “borne in upon Him by the logic of events [of his life] and by the fact that the Messianic category better than any other expressed the purpose of His mission and the content of His personality.” Love’s conception of Jesus as Messiah is of utmost importance because it parallels his own life and, perhaps, self-concept. What emerges at this period of Edgar Love’s life is his own unique approach to spirituality—one which sought to emulate Jesus Himself.
Love completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from Boston University in 1918 and was immediately hired as pastor of Mount Washington United Methodist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. The fait accompli of completing a degree from one of the nation’s preeminent theological schools and assuming a choice ministerial position within the Methodist church would be short-lived, however, as the ominous and very immediate threat of the Triple Alliance and the deadly offensives being waged during the War to End All Wars would ultimately render the United States‟ policy of isolationism moot amid growing global tensions, and would engross an African-American community eager to prove both their patriotism and their humanity by fighting against the Kaiser.