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Article

Michael Pasquier

Roman Catholic nun and founder of a religious order, was born in New Orleans, the daughter of Marie Josephe Diaz, a free woman of color, and Jean Baptiste Delille-Sarpy a wealthy white aristocrat Legally categorized as a person of mixed race Delille attended a school for free children of color under the direction of Catholic sisters in New Orleans Her father did not support the family in any measurable fashion and her mother suffered from mental illness all of which required that Delille and her two surviving siblings support themselves at a young age As a teenager she began to identify less with the aristocratic society of free people of color and more with the religious lives of Catholic sisters She became a catechist to free people of color and a lay leader in Catholic confraternities Legal and social standards however limited the extent to which she was ...

Article

Donald Yacovone

abolitionist and singer, was born Lavinia (sometimes Lavina) F. Ames in Andover, Massachusetts, to Prince and Eunice (Russ) Ames. Nothing else is known about her early life except that the U.S. census listed her as a mulatto. She married the abolitionist leader John T. Hilton on 31 October 1825. The couple had six children—one died an infant in 1826—Lucretia, Louisa, John W., Henry, and Thomas B. She was active in Boston's African Baptist Church and in April 1833 performed a vocal solo in a concert held in the church by the Baptist Singing Society. While her husband achieved fame as an abolitionist leader and grand master of the Prince Hall Freemason lodge number 459 in Boston, Lavinia pursued her own antislavery work—a contribution that has been largely overlooked by historians.

In April 1833 while her husband helped form a gentleman s temperance ...

Article

Patricia J. Thompson

anti-slavery activist, was born in Portland, Maine, the daughter of the Reverend Samuel Snowden and his first wife, Nancy Marsh, from Monmouth, Maine.

Isabella grew up as a free black woman in a home in which her father was both a well-known preacher and an anti-slavery activist. When she was eight years old, Isabella moved to Boston with her family when her father was called to pastor the growing African American congregation which was then a part of the Bromfield Methodist Episcopal Church. Her father often assisted runaway slaves, and her home was a refuge for those from the South seeking asylum.

Isabella eventually married Henry Holmes, a barber in Boston. They had at least one child, Emily Otis, who was born c.1833 and married Charles H. Stephens from Newport, Rhode Island, on 29 October 1854 Nothing more is known about Emily and Charles and ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

saint, missionary, and pioneer of African Catholicism in Senegal, Gambia, and Sierre Leone, was born on 11 November 1779 in the southern French village of Jallanges, near Dijon. Her father and mother, Balthazar and Claudine Javouhey, were devoted Catholics, and they had nine other children besides Anne-Marie. The family protected priests hiding from revolutionary troops during the French Revolution. Her father was impressed by Javouhey’s fervent belief as an adolescent, but wondered if she had the inner stability to become a nun, as she hoped. Her vocation was further impeded by the revolutionary government, which had banned public worship at the time she first expressed her desire to become a nun, in 1796. From the late 1790s to 1805 Javouhey stayed with several different orders including at a Trappist convent and another convent run by the Sisters of Charity Finally she decided to establish her own religious ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

“And why should it be thought impossible, heterodox, or improper, for a woman to preach? seeing the Savior died for the woman as well as the man.” In this quotation from her autobiography, Jarena Lee explains the belief that led her to become one of the first African American women preachers. Lee was born into a free black family and was hired out as an indentured servant at the age of seven. She converted to Christianity at the age of twenty-one, and, after wrestling with spiritual doubts for several years, realized that she was serious about her faith and felt called by God to preach. But when Lee first asked to preach at Philadelphia's Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in 1809, the Rev. Richard Allen dissuaded her because of her gender.

She became a minister's wife instead, marrying the Rev. Joseph Lee in 1811 and giving birth ...

Article

Jualynne E. Dodson

Jarena Lee was the first woman known to petition the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church for authority to preach. She was born in Cape May, New Jersey, and is recorded to have made a first request to preach in 1809 at Bethel African Methodist Church of Philadelphia. The denial of this request did not stop Lee from preaching, and neither did her family life.

She married Reverend Joseph Lee, an AME pastor, in 1811 and moved to Snow Hill, New Jersey. In the sixth year of marriage, Joseph Lee died, and Lee was left with two children and a commitment “to preach his gospel to the fallen sons and daughters of Adam’s race.”

Jarena Lee returned to Philadelphia and renewed her request to preach. Reverend Richard Allen who at Lee s first request could find no precedent in Methodist discipline for women preaching had become bishop of ...

Article

Stacey Pamela Patton

the first woman known to have petitioned for and received the authority to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Jarena Lee was born free in Cape May, New Jersey. At the age of seven she was sent to work as a domestic. In 1804 she went to hear a Presbyterian missionary preach and became so overwhelmed by her sinful nature that she was moved within days to contemplate suicide. She recounts in the narrative she wrote that the “unseen arm of God … saved me from self-murder.” Soon thereafter she became ill; after recovering she moved to Philadelphia, where she heard the preaching of the Reverend Richard Allen who later became the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church That day she embraced the church as her own and three weeks from that day my soul was gloriously converted to God under preaching For a few moments ...

Article

Peter Hudson

When the Methodist Episcopal Church formally separated from the Anglican Church on Christmas Eve 1784, it declared that within a year all slaves owned by Methodists would be set free. The church soon drifted from this position, however. “On the local level it was not expedient to free slaves,” writes religious scholar Richard E. Wentz. “Preachers began to develop a theological position that concerned itself only with the saving of souls and left social ethics to the government.” Individual parishes were allowed to develop their own positions regarding slavery, but the questions it provoked haunted the church well into the next century.

By the 1830s a number of congregations in the North had left the church because this ambivalent posture conflicted with their own abolitionist stance In the South however Methodist planters vehemently fought for the institution that was the foundation of their economy To further protect themselves ...

Article

Ida E. Jones

The Protestant arm of black Christianity was forged out of a desire to seek the Lord for sincere worship and to establish safe sanctuary from a hostile chattel slave environment. The Protestant church is defined as any order of Christians who do not belong to the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Eastern Church. The Protestant Reformation began in sixteenth-century Europe, when religious purists opposed the rising secularism and materialistic spirit that the Renaissance had brought to the Roman Catholic Church. Toward this end, in 1517, Martin Luther challenged the church to address their bifurcated interests. His challenge led to a revival of faith among individual believers. Luther translated the Bible into German and espoused a priesthood of believers, rather than a priesthood based on a hierarchy.

African American religious expression and experience in early America had roots in Methodist and Baptist congregations across the eastern seaboard The Methodist ...

Article

Arthuree McLaughlin Wright

clubwoman, and civic leader, was born to Jackson and Beattie Connor (or Conner), former slaves. The Connors moved their ten children to Selma, Ohio, where Emma attended school. Details of her early life are sketchy, but as a young adult, Emma Connor worked as a teacher and was active in the local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In 1886 Emma met Reverdy Cassius Ransom, a senior at Wilberforce University, when he was appointed student pastor at the Selma church. He and Emma were married in Selma on 27 October 1887, and she joined him in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where he was assigned a pastorate. The following year, their infant son died a few hours after he was born. A second son, named for his father, was born 2 September 1889. Reverend Ransom's son from a first marriage, Harold moved in with them after Reverdy ...

Article

Karla Sclater

Christian missionary and temperance advocate, was born Emma Smith, enslaved in Springfield, Missouri. She lived with her mother, Jennie Boyd, and both her sister and her father, John Smith, lived on a neighboring plantation. There were also four older siblings living on yet another plantation near Springfield. One month after her birth in 1859, Emma was put up for auction alongside her mother and sister. Her father threatened his owners that if they did not purchase his wife and daughters he would run away. The strategy proved successful and Smith was able to have his wife and two daughters live with him.

Emma Smith was only two years old when the Civil War erupted. In 1864 as the Union army secured remaining portions of Missouri from rebel control the white slaveholding Smith brothers John Smith kept the name of his owners fled south to Arkansas ...

Article

Cheryl Townsend Gilkes

The importance of religion in the African American experience cannot be overstated Religion can be seen as both worldview and human organization and from both perspectives women have been at the center The African American religious experience especially as it has been actualized by women combines African sensibilities New World experiences Western Christianity and an activist orientation toward injustice and racial oppression As a worldview it encompasses mythic experiential doctrinal ethical ritual and social dimensions and transcends specific organizational or denominational forms Women historically have taken great responsibility for all of these dimensions framing and shaping the contexts of religious life and practice They are the primary teachers of religious doctrine and tradition within the churches Religious life and practice in turn have been central to the psychic and spiritual strengths women have used to cope with the oppressive realities of life in the United States In their everyday language ...

Article

Adrienne Israel

church leader and organizer, was born Lizzie Smith in Phillips County, Arkansas, one of five children of enslaved parents, Lizzie Jackson and Mose Smith. Her father died shortly after her birth, leaving her illiterate mother to raise their children alone. Nevertheless, after the Civil War all five attended school, and by age eight, Lizzie had learned to read. When Lizzie was fifteen her mother died, forcing her to quit school and work as a washerwoman to support herself. In 1880, while living in Helena, Arkansas, she married William Henry Holt and gave birth to a daughter, Ida Florence. When Holt died, she married William H. Woods, who also died soon after they were married. In 1892 Robinson settled in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where she joined a Baptist church and where she and Ida lived together and worked as laundresses until Ida married Archie Baker ...

Article

Ida E. Jones

Some scholars assert that the sanctified church developed in the New World as a unique blend of western theology and West Africa religious practices and beliefs. Iain MacRobert states “An African heart continued to pulsate with black longings, black ambitions and a black spirituality which integrated the seen and unseen worlds [making] no distinctions between the sacred and profane.” One of the earliest uses of the term occurs in the anthropological writings of Zora Neale Hurston, derived from her fieldwork in the South. In Sanctified Church Hurston defined it in part as a revitalizing phenomenon rising from various groups of saints in America In the black Protestant organized church experience sanctified church was the term traditionally used to describe various independent black church organizations formed at the turn of the twentieth century whose members believed among other things that God required everyone to work in order to reclaim ...

Article

Allison Kellar

teacher, missionary, writer, and abolitionist, was born Lucy Stanton in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Samuel and Margaret Stanton. In Cleveland, Lucy's father owned a barbershop business with his partner John Brown. Samuel Stanton died when Lucy was two years old, and Brown became Lucy's stepfather, helping Margaret raise Lucy along with the four children from their marriage.

John and Margaret Brown and their household played a significant role in the Underground Railroad, housing many runaway slaves until they could escape to Canada. In addition John Brown funded and constructed a school for black children, providing his children and many others with educational opportunities.

In 1850 Sessions became the first woman of African American descent to graduate from a four year college program She studied literature at Oberlin College and became a teacher Oberlin s literary program for ladies did not require women ...

Article

Victor Anderson

Compared to the historic “Negro church,” the term “black church” is a rather recent nomenclature among historical and sociological researchers such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, E. Franklin Frazier, Benjamin Elijah Mays, and C. Eric Lincoln With the Black Consciousness Black Power and New Black Aesthetic movements of the 1960s and 1970s the so called Negro church became the black church Generally speaking the black church may refer to any religious fellowship whose majority memberships are black regardless of denomination This includes blacks in predominantly white denominations However sociologically speaking the black church designates the major historically black denominations as African Methodist Episcopal AME African Methodist Episcopal Zion AMEZ National Baptist Convention NBC National Baptist Convention of America NBCA Progressive National Baptist Convention PNBC or Church of God in Christ COGIC The black church in the United States makes up more ...

Article

Beretta E. Smith-Shomade

Spirituality is an important aspect of most African American women’s belief system. While it remains a highly contested term, the scholar-pastor Carlyle Fielding Stewart III wrote that spirituality represents the

full matrix of beliefs, power, values and behaviors that shape people’s consciousness, understanding, and capacity of themselves in relation to divine reality. [It is also] a process by which people interpret, disclose, formulate, adapt and innovate reality and their understandings of God within a specific context or culture.

(Stewart)

This definition allows for the many interpretations of spirituality that people employ. Examining the scholarship, literature, and lives of black women gives insightful illustrations to this definition.

Before the proliferation of Christianity and Islam in Africa many Africans worshipped a God power beyond humankind They did this without placing those beliefs in the context of organized religion In the United States Christianity was used to subdue Africans taken as slaves both ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

founder, treasurer, vice president, and president of the Women's Parent Mite Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, sometimes known affectionately by her family as Sadie, was born Sarah E. Miller in Winchester, Virginia, where her parents were by state law considered the property of persons whose names are lost to history. Her life paralleled that of her husband, AME bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner, but reflected her own distinct service to church and community.

In 1843 her family escaped via the Underground Railroad, settling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she attended day school and Allegheny Institute, established by Reverend Charles Avery in 1849 as a school for young Americans of African descent (see Brown, 1988, and Verdino-Sullwold, 1991). Benjamin T. Tanner the freeborn son of a Pittsburgh river boatman also attended Avery working as a barber to pay his way before ...

Article

James Sellman

Sojourner Truth was one of the best-known black women of her time, rivaled only by African American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, yet her life remains surrounded by mystery. Truth, who was illiterate, left no written record apart from her autobiographical Narrative of Sojourner Truth, dictated to white abolitionist Olive Gilbert in the late 1840s. Much of what we know about her was reported or perhaps invented by others. More so than Frederick Douglass, her prolifically autobiographical contemporary, Truth has been transformed into myth. Feminists emphasize her challenge to restrictive Victorian codes of femininity; Marxist historians proclaim her solidarity with the working class. Her spirit has been invoked on college campuses in the United States in struggles to create African American and Women's Studies programs. Yet most interpretations of Truth fail to understand the centrality of her evangelical religious faith.

In their writings, both Harriet Beecher Stowe and ...