I am working on a book that deals with the history of white evangelicals in the South in regard to racial division and how many of the underlying issues that led them to be racists are still with us today, just manifesting in different forms. These forms are still very destructive and dramatically effect our ability to make disciples, be faithful to Christ, and live missional lives. The conventional wisdom is that the SBC was begun in Augusta, Georgia in 1845 because of missions. In reality, it was because the Baptists in the north would not recognize slaveholders as missionaries and the Baptists in the South did not approve of their decision. They wanted to appoint who they wanted to and thus protect their way of life. So, they started their own movement to recognize and support slaveholding missionaries. But, the flow of history in the 1800's was clearly flowing AGAINST slavery everywhere but in the American South. For a group of Christians to be so out of tune, not only with Scripture, but also with the global flow of history everywhere except in their immediate cultural context could only mean that Baptists in the South (as well as Methodists and Presbyterians) were fully captive to the larger culture that they were members of.
Take a look at this timeline of the abolition of slavery in the 1800's (the founding of the SBC is added in 1845):
1802: The First Consul Napoleon re-introduces slavery on French colonies growing sugarcane.
1803: Denmark-Norway abolition of transatlantic slave trade takes effect 1 January 1803
1804: New Jersey begins a gradual abolition of slavery, freeing future children of slaves. Those born prior to the Act remain enslaved for life
1804: Haiti declares independence and abolishes slavery
1805: Britain: bill for Abolition passed in Commons, rejected in the House of Lords.
1807, 2 March: Thomas Jefferson signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves into law in the U.S. which took effect January 1, 1808.
1807, 25 March: Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolished slave trading in British Empire. Captains fined £120 per slave transported.
1807: British begin patrols of African coast to arrest slaving vessels. West Africa Squadron (Royal Navy) established to suppress slave trading; by 1865, nearly 150,000 people freed by anti-slavery operations
1807: Abolition of serfdom in Prussia through the Stein-Hardenberg Reforms.
1808: In United States, Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves takes effect 1 Jan.
1810: In Mexico, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declares slavery abolished. In the following years, during the Mexican War of Independence, gradually comprehensive steps will end slavery in the new country.
1811: Slave trading made a felony in the British Empire punishable by transportation for British subjects and foreigners.
1811: Spain abolishes slavery at home and in all colonies except Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo
1811: The First National Congress of Chile approves a proposal drafted by Manuel de Salas that declares the Freedom of wombs, which sets free the sons of slaves born on Chilean territory, no matter the conditions of the parents; it prohibited the slave trade and recognized as freedmen those who, passing in transit through Chilean territory, stayed there for six months.
1813: In Argentina, the Law of Wombs was passed on February 2, by the Assembly of Year XIII. The law stated that those born after January 31, 1813 would be granted freedom when contracting matrimony, or on their 16th birthday for women and 20th for men, and upon their manumission would be given land and tools to work it. In 1853, slavery was completely abolished.
1814: Uruguay, before its independence, declares all those born of slaves in their territories are free from that day forward.
1814: Dutch outlaw slave trade.
1815: British pay Portugal £750,000 to cease their trade north of the Equator
1815: Congress of Vienna. 8 Victorious powers declared their opposition to slavery
1816: Serfdom abolished in Estonia.
1817: Serfdom abolished in Courland.
1817: Spain paid £400,000 by British to cease trade to Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo
1817: New York State sets a date of July 4, 1827 to free all its slaves.
1818: Treaty between Britain and Spain to abolish slave trade 
1818: Treaty between Britain and Portugal to abolish slave trade 
1818: France and Netherlands abolish slave trading
1818: teaty between Britain and Netherlands to abolish slave trade 
1819: Serfdom abolished in Livonia.
1820: Mexico formally abolishes slavery with the Plan of Iguala, proposed by Agustín de Iturbide and ratified the following year by him and the Viceroy, Juan O'Donojú
1820: Compromise of 1820 in U.S. prohibits slavery north of a line (36°30')
1821: Gran Colombia (Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama) declares free the sons and daughters born to slave mothers, sets up program for compensated emancipation 
1822: Liberia founded by American Colonization Society (USA) as a colony for emancipated slaves.
1822: Greece abolishes slavery
1823: Chile abolishes slavery
1824: Mexico's new Constitution (1824 Constitution of Mexico) effectively frees existing slaves.
1824: The Federal Republic of Central America abolishes slavery.
1825: Uruguay declares independence from Brazil and prohibits the traffic of slaves from foreign countries.
1827: Treaty between Britain and Sweden to abolish slave trade 
1828: New York State abolishes slavery. Children born between 1799 and 1827 are indentured until age 25 (females) or age 28 (males).
1829: Last slaves are freed in Mexico.
1830: Mexican president Anastasio Bustamante orders the abolition of slavery to be implemented also in Mexican Texas. To circumvent the law, many Anglo colonists convert their slaves into "indentured servants for life", and later break away from Mexico - delaying the end of slavery in Texas until 1865.
1830: The first Constitution of Uruguay declares the abolition of slavery.
1831: Bolivia abolishes slavery
1834: The British Slavery Abolition Act comes into force, abolishing slavery throughout most of the British Empire. Legally frees 700,000 in West Indies, 20,000 in Mauritius, 40,000 in South Africa. The exceptions, territories controlled by the Honourable East India Company and Ceylon, were liberated in 1843 when they became part of the British Empire. 
1835: Treaty between Britain and France to abolish slave trade 
1835: Treaty between Britain and Denmark to abolish slave trade 
1836: Portugal abolishes transatlantic slave trade
1838, 1 August: Enslaved men, women and children in the British Empire finally became free after a period of forced apprenticeship following the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833
1839: British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society founded, now called Anti-Slavery International
1839: Indian indenture system made illegal (reversed in 1842)
1840: Treaty between Britain and Venezuela to abolish slave trade 
1841: Quintuple Treaty is signed; Britain, France, Russia, Prussia, and Austria agree to suppress slave trade
1842: Treaty between Britain and Portugal to extend the enforcement of the ban on slave trade to Portuguese ships sailing south of the Equator.
1843: Honourable East India Company becomes increasingly controlled by Britain and abolishes slavery in India by the Indian Slavery Act V. of 1843.
1843: Treaty between Britain and Uruguay to suppress slave trade 
1843: Treaty between Britain and Mexico to suppress slave trade 
1843: Treaty between Britain and Chile to suppress slave trade 
1843: Treaty between Britain and Bolivia to abolish slave trade 
1845: 36 British Royal Navy ships are assigned to the Anti-Slavery Squadron, making it one of the largest fleets in the world.
1845: FOUNDING OF THE SBC IN AUGUSTA, GEORGIA TO ALLOW SLAVEHOLDERS TO BE MISSIONARIES
1846: Tunisia abolishes slavery
1847: Ottoman Empire abolishes slave trade from Africa.
1847: Sweden abolishes slavery 
1847: Slavery ends in Pennsylvania. Those born before 1780 (fewer than 100 in 1840 Census) are freed.
1848: Slavery abolished in all French and Danish colonies 
1848: France founds Gabon for settlement of emancipated slaves.
1848: Treaty between Britain and Muscat to suppress slave trade 
1849: Treaty between Britain and Persian Gulf states to suppress slave trade 
1850: In the United States, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 requires return of escaped slaves
1851: New Granada (Colombia) abolishes slavery
1852: The Hawaiian Kingdom abolishes kauwa system of serfdom.
1853: Argentina abolishes slavery when promulgating the 1853 Constitution
1854: Peru abolishes slavery
1854: Venezuela abolishes slavery
1855: Moldavia partially abolishes slavery.
1856: Wallachia partially abolishes slavery.
1860: Indenture system abolished within British-occupied India.
1861: Russia frees its serfs in the Emancipation reform of 1861.
1862: Treaty between United States and Britain for the suppression of the slave trade (African Slave Trade Treaty Act).
1862: Cuba abolishes slave trade
1863: Slavery abolished in Dutch colonies.
1863: In the United States, Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation which declared slaves in Confederate-controlled areas to be freed. Most slaves in "border states" are freed by state action; separate law freed the slaves in Washington, D.C.
1865: December: U.S. abolishes slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; about 40,000 remaining slaves are affected.
1866: Slavery abolished in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).
1869: Portugal abolishes slavery in the African colonies
1870: U.S. abolishes slavery among Indians in Alaska after purchasing it from Russia in 1867
1871: Brazil Rio Branco Law declares free the sons and daughters born to slave mothers after 28 September 1871.
1873: Slavery abolished in Puerto Rico
1873: Treaty between Britain and Zanzibar and Madagascar to suppress slave trade 
1874: Britain abolishes slavery in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), following its annexation in 1874.
1882: Ottoman firman abolishes all forms of slavery, white or black.
1885: Brazil passes Sexagenarian Law freeing all slaves over the age of 60.
1886: Slavery abolished in Cuba
1888: Brazil passes Golden Law, abolishing slavery without indemnities to slaveowners or aid to newly freed slaves.
1890: Brussels Conference Act – a collection of anti-slavery measures to put an end to the slave trade on land and sea especially in the Congo Basin, the Ottoman Empire and the East African coast
1894: Korea abolishes slavery
1896: France abolishes slavery in Madagascar
1897: Zanzibar abolishes slavery following its becoming a British protectorate.
1902: Ethiopian Empire abolishes slavery (though it was not legally and officially abolished by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1942)
1906: China formally abolishes slavery effective 31 January 1910, when all adult slaves were converted into hired labourers and the young were freed upon reaching age 25.
1912: Siam (Thailand), formally abolishes all slavery. The act of selling a person into slavery was abolished in 1897 but slavery itself was not outlawed at that time.
Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abolition_of_slavery_timeline
So, the year before TUNISIA abolishes slavery, the SBC is formed to affirm the "right" of Christian missionaries to own slaves and take them with them on the mission field. The SBC started so slaveholders who wanted to be missionaries could take their slaves with them while they went and preached the gospel to Native Americans. The whole thing seems absurd now, even laughable, if it were not true. But, this timeline demonstrates well how out of step Southern Baptists were with world opinion on the issue. It is not as if they were ignorant of abolition movements. They knew all about them and patently rejected them.
I know that many in the SBC are embarrassed over this history and abhor it. I am not trying to pile on here. But, this is informative, especially when we see almost wholesale support for the Secession and the resulting Civil War just 15 years later by Baptists and even the adoption of a Theology of the Lost Cause by many after the war. The implications of being this wrong in relation to the larger culture in the South are quite serious and have not been adequately dealt with in my opinion.
In light of this, I wonder how we might be getting things wrong now?