Black History Month

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Nat Turner

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Nathaniel “Nat” Turner

Nathaniel “Nat” Turner was born on October 2, 1800 as a slave in Southampton County, Virginia.  His mother was named Nancy, was a native African.  His owner, Benjamin Turner, allowed Nat to be instructed in reading, writing, and religion.  Early on, he devoted much of his time reading the Bible, praying, and fasting.  It is said that Nat had the ability to describe things that happened before his birth.  Some ventured to say that he “surely would become a prophet” based on his ability to see signs.

By the early 1820s, Nat had worked on a number of plantations.  In 1821, he ran from his current owner Samuel Turner’s (brother of Benjamin Turner) plantation.  It was while in hiding that Nat believed he received a sign from God telling him that he was to lead his people from bondage.  So he returned to the plantation and began to preach to the slaves who began calling him “the Prophet”.

In February of 1831, Nat Turner received another sign, in the form of a solar eclipse, to signify to him that the time for revolt was imminent.  He spent months developing his plan and gathering recruits.  On August 21, 1831, Turner and seven other slaves began the only effective, sustained slave rebellion in U.S. history.  The Nat Turner revolt resulted in a gathering of nearly 40-50 slaves securing arms and horses to murder about 55 white men and the spread of terror across the South.  Although the revolt caused stricter legislation prohibiting the education, movement, and assembly of slaves up until the Civil war in 1861, it also eradicated the myth that slaves were either content being slaves or were too submissive to mount an armed revolt. 

Nat turner was eventually found and hanged in Jerusalem (now Courtland), VA on November 11, 1831.  It is believed that for many years subsequent to Turner’s death, Black churches throughout the country referred to the name Jerusalem not only from the bible but also covertly to the place of Nat Turner’s execution.  

For more information, visit:

A Rebellion to Remember: The Legacy of Nat Turner

History.com – Nat Turner

 

 

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Howard Thurman

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Howard Thurman (1899-1981)

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Howard Thurman is a native of Daytona Beach, Florida, born on November 18, 1899. Among being known as a Baptist preacher, theologian, and educator, Thurman is noted for being the first African American dean of a predominantly white university and the founder of the first interracial interfaith congregation in the United States. Born the grandson of former slaves, it was instilled to Thurman the importance of gaining the best education possible. It was his grandmother who also nurtured his ability to critically read and understand the Bible. Once he reached the eighth grade, Thurman worked in a dry-cleaning business while attending school. He was the first black child to receive an eighth grade certificate from Daytona’s public school system. After the eighth grade, he was sent off to Jacksonville to attend what was the nearest high school that blacks were allowed to attend, Florida Baptist Academy. Subsequently, he graduated and proceeded to receive his bachelor’s degree in economics from Morehouse College in 1923.

After receiving a Bachelor’s of Divinity degree from Rochester Theological Seminary in 1926, he served as pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Oberlin, Ohio, while pursuing a graduate degree in theology at Oberlin College. In January of 1929, Thurman resigned as pastor and began graduate studies at Haverford College under the leadership of Quaker theologian Rufus M. Jones. It was there that he developed a burden to not only preach but to also develop disciples.

In the fall of 1929, Howard Thurman became a professor at Morehouse College. In 1932 he became the dean of Rankin Chapel at Howard University. After meeting with Mohandas Gandhi in 1934, Thurman set himself on a path towards nonviolent protests against segregation. In addition to founding the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, Thurman also became a voice of inspiration for students committed to social justice and participation in the civil rights movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dying in 1981, Howard Thurman’s teachings and influence can still be heard today through the many books he wrote and monumental leaders he taught.

For more information visit:

BU.edu – Who Was Howard Thurman?

American National Biography – Howard Thurman

PBS.Org: This Far by Faith

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Samuel Cornish

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Samuel Cornish

Samuel Cornish may not be a frontrunner of familiarity concerning black history but he is definitely noteworthy nonetheless.  Cornish along with John B. Russworn founded the first black newspaper in the United States: Freedom's Journal.

Samuel Cornish was born of free parents in Sussex County, Delaware in 1795. He was then raised in Philadelphia where he graduated from the Free African school. Shortly after, he began training to become a Presbyterian minister under the leadership of John Gloucester. In 1822, Cornish was ordained and subsequently organized the first black Presbyterian Church in New York, the New Demeter Street Presbyterian Church.

In addition to being a pastor, Cornish also became a journalist.  It was the goal of Cornish and John Russwurm to create a medium to allow blacks to "plead our own cause." Out of that motivation, the Freedom's Journal was birthed on March 16, 1827.  The newspaper was circulated througout 11 states and there were even issues in Canada, Europe, and Hati.

Cornish continued to be an advocate for African Americans as he was also an abolishionist, a leader at the New York African Free School promoting the need for parents to send their children to school and he also served as an editor for various publications across the country whose goal was to promote the welfare of blacks in America. Cornish died in Brooklyn on November 6, 1858.

For more information visit:

Blackpast.org: Samuel Cornish(http://www.blackpast.org/aah/cornish-samuel-eli-1795-1858)

NYHistory.org: Samuel Cornish (https://www.nyhistory.org/web/africanfreeschool/bios/samuel-cornish.html)

PBS - Freedom's Journal(http://www.pbs.org/blackpress/news_bios/newbios/nwsppr/freedom/freedom.html)


Black Church Figures You Should Know - Dr. Gardner C. Taylor

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Dr. Gardner C. Taylor - The Dean of American Preachers

The Rev. Gardner Calvin Taylor, celebrated preacher, scholar, and former pastor of The Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, NY was born to Washington Monroe Taylor and Selina Taylor in Baton Rouge, LA on June 18, 1918. In his early years he was baptized into the fellowship of the church where his father served as pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church, where years later he also served as pastor.

After finishing at Leland College in 1937, Dr. Taylor earned his bachelor of Divinity degree at the Oberlin School of Theology. In addition, he was awarded numerous honorary doctorate degrees throughout his ministry. Dr. Taylor was a member of The Boule', a 33rd Degree Mason and member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.

In 1948 Dr., Taylor was called to pastor The Concord Baptist Church, one of the most influential Christian churches in America. During this time, notoriety spread as he preached nationally and internationally, lectured at numerous seminaries, and served as president of Progressive National Baptist Convention. Dr. Taylor lectured at numerous seminaries, and served at Concord Baptist Church until in retirement in 1990.

Known as "The Dean of American preachers," he was a mentor and close friend to Martin Luther King, Jr. and was a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's. He preached the sermon for President William Jefferson Clinton in 1993 and in 2000 was awarded the nation's highest civilian honor by President Clinton, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Over 2000 of Dr. Taylor's sermons are archived at the Robert W. Woodruff Library in Atlanta, GA and many can read in his collection of sermons, The Words of Gardner Taylor: 50 years of timeless treasures. He quietly transitioned into eternity on Resurrection Sunday, April 5th 2015 at Duke University Medical center in Durham, NC at the age of 96. (Bio copied from Obituary)

For more information visit:

The Washington Post, April 5, 2015:  Civil rights leader, friend of MLK and iconic preacher Gardner C. Taylor has died.

The New York Times, Dec. 30, 2011:  A Lion of the Pulpit, Aging Now, Has a Message for New Generations.

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Aug. 18, 2006: Reverend Gardner C. Taylor Extended Interview

From UrbanFaith.com, June 18, 2009: The Pulpit King.

Check out a lecture by Dr. Taylor:

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Mahalia Jackson

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) – The Queen of Gospel

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It is seldom that you hear of a person that has been familiar with American music for any significant amount of time and has not at least heard of Mahalia Jackson. Known as the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson has been acclaimed as one of the greatest musical figures in United States history.

Born October 26, 1911 in New Orleans, LA, Jackson began singing as a child at Mt. Moriah Baptist church where her father, Johnny, was pastor. Living in the heart of the birthplace of Jazz music, Mahalia was influenced by many styles and artists including Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson and others. At 16 she joined the Great Northern Migration and moved to Chicago where she worked as a laundress. Immediately her talent was recognized and in 1934 she recorded her first single, “God’s Gonna Separate the Wheat from the Tares”.

In 1936, she marred IssacHockenhull who urged her to sing popular music but she refused. She continued to sing in churches all over the country. In 1937 she connected with the renown gospel composer Thomas A. Dorsey who served as her musical advisor and accompanist. In 1947, after joining Apollo Records, she recorded what was the best-selling Gospel song of all time, “Move On Up a Little Higher.

In addition to her international fame and influence of gospel music, Jackson was also a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Befriended to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, she sang at the March on Washington at Dr. King’s request. After singing at Dr. King’s funeral she withdrew from public political activities.

Several hospitalizations forced Mahalia to give up singing abroad. Her final concert was in Munich, Germany in 1971. She succumbed to a heart attack on January 27, 1972. Her legendary influence still lives on today as she is a foundational pillar in music everywhere, especially gospel music.

For more information visit:

Black History Now-Mahalia Jackson

Biography.com – Mahalia Jackson

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Dr. Ralph West

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Ralph D. West – Giant Preacher and Humble Pastor

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A native of Houston, Texas, Dr. Ralph Douglass West is one of the most sought out preachers in the country.  First preaching at sixteen years of age, Dr. West is now the pastor and founder of Brookhollow Baptist Church, also known as “The Church Without Walls”, in Houston, TX.  Initially beginning with 32 members, the church now has a membership of over 24,000 in three locations.

Pastor West received a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion and Philosophy from Bishop College, in Dallas, TX; a Master of Divinity degree with Biblical Languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX; and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, AL.  He also has received honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from the Interdenominational Theological Center at Morehouse School of Religion, Atlanta, GA and Paul Quinn College, Dallas, TX.  He serves as Adjunct Professor of Preaching at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University.

It is Dr. West’s philosophy that the academy and the church are mutually dependent upon each other.  That the church directs the work of the academy and the academy helps to illustrate scripture, inform the worship of the church, and directs its course in return.  It is this way of thinking that allows Pastor West to be effective in both lecture halls and pulpits nationwide.  He has a unique ability to enhance his sermons by thorough exposition of Scripture coupled with the use relevant illustrations, all while maintaining the preaching tradition of church and culture. 

West is well respected as a great preacher who maintains a pastor’s heart.  He is married to SherettaMachell Grays West and has two sons: Ralph Douglass II, and RalphealDanial.

For more information, visit:

The Church Without Walls

Ralph West.org

 

Check out a sermon by Dr. West: 

 

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Richard Allen

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Richard Allen (1760-1831) – Father of the AME Church

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Bishop Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church was born on February 14, 1760 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born in slavery to Mr. Benjamin Chew, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Allen was also the son of an African father and a bi-racial mother. At the age of seven, the Allen family was sold to Stokley Sturgis, a plantation owner in Delaware. He was later separated from his mother and three of six of her children as they were sold again to another slave owner, while his sister and older brother remained. As he and his brother aged, they were permitted to attend religious meetings of the Methodist Society. At the age of seventeen, Allen and his brother were converted to Christianity and they joined the Methodist Society. Their example and leadership on the plantation subsequently caused many, including his owner Sturgis, to believe in the faith and they were later able to earn their freedom. In 1783, Allen began to preach the Gospel across the northeast. As knowledge of him spread, he was invited in 1786 to preach regularly at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church. As the amount of black attendees grew, hostility developed within the church. That led them to separate and found the Free African Society(FAS) in 1787, led by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones-Richard’s friend in the ministry. In 1795 a meeting place was constructed, named “The Blacksmith Shop Meeting House”. The church eventually would be named “Bethel”. In April of 1816, Allen and 15 representatives from other Black Methodist congregations convened at the Bethel church to establish and organize the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first black independent denomination, with Allen as their first Bishop. Today the AME church has membership in thirty-nine countries on five continents.

For more information visit:

The AME Church

A Brief History of the Black Church

Mother Bethel

BlackPast.org: Richard Allen

Black Church Figures You Should Know - John Gloucester

Why the series?


Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

 

John Gloucester (1776-1822) – Pioneer of the Presbyterian Church

 

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John Gloucester, originally named as Jack by his slave master, became the founder of the first African American Presbyterian Church in the United States. Gloucester was born in 1776 as a slave in Blount County, Tennessee. Rev. Gideon Blackburn, a Presbyterian minister and evangelist, recognized Jack’s potential and proceeded to teach him theology. Subsequently, Blackburn purchased Jack’s freedom, changed his name to John Gloucester, and proceeded to train Gloucester in the ministry. In 1805, Blackburn took Gloucester to a meeting of the Presbyter of the Union where he was licensed and authorized to “preach to the Africans”. A year later, on November 5, 1806, Gloucester began his formal training at Greeneville College, becoming the first African American to attend the school. After completing his training, he traveled to Philadelphia with Blackburn and it was there that the first African Presbyterian church was formed in 1807. John was married to Rhonda and together they had five children who were also all freed from slavery. Of those five children, all four of his sons became Presbyterian ministers-three of which also formed their own congregations. Gloucester continued his dedication to the ministry until his death in 1822 to pneumonia. In 1910, the John Gloucester Memorial and Historical society began to promote and preserve his legacy and continues today. In addition, the Presbytery of Boston, Ma sponsors John Gloucester Memorial scholarships for Presbyterian students nationwide.

For more information visit:

BlackPast.org: John Gloucester

Westminster Sermons: John Gloucester and the First African Presbyterian Church

Historical Society of Pennsylvania: The Home of African American Presbyterianism

Facts on Faith Web: John Gloucester