Religion

Absalom Jones

Absalom Jones

Founder of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Absalom Jones was born into slavery in Sussex County, Delaware, on November 6, 1746. He taught himself to read and knew the New Testament thoroughly at an early age. When he was 16, Absalom’s owner took him to Philadelphia, Pa., where he served as a clerk and handyman in a retail store.

He was allowed to work for himself in the evenings and keep his earning. He was married in 1770. By the time Jones was 38 years old, he had purchased his wife’s freedom, and his own, and had bought a house. Later he built two more houses and used them for rental income.  Continue reading

Barbara Clementine Harris

Barbara Clementine Harris

Barbara Clementine Harris made history in 1989 when she became the first woman bishop in the Worldwide Anglican Communion. She was consecrated Suffragan Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts on February 11, 1989

. As the first woman bishop and an African-American, she received death threats and obscene messages. Though urged to wear a bullet-proof vest to her ordination, she refused. A contingent of the Boston police were assigned to her consecration. Her comment was merely, “I don’t take this in a personal way.”  Continue reading

Peter Williams, Jr.

williams_peter

Described as a “genuine African,” Peter Williams and his parents were enslaved Africans. Williams’ enslaver, Mr. Aymar, was a tobacconist. He was also a Loyalist who left the country during the Revolutionary War. Having developed a skill, Williams went into business for himself as a tobacconist. He would eventually own a house, store, and other property–including himself. In 1783, Williams became the “property of the John Street Methodist church who bought him for forty (40) pounds.” From June 10, 1783, through October 20, 1796, Peter Williams worked off the debt and “refunded every pound the trustees had paid his master, and thus purchased himself.”

When Peter Williams led the African American members of the congregation from the church, he was leaving a church that compelled its African American members to wait to be served communion until all of the white members had been served. The realization that the church was not serving the needs of the African and African American community, and that African Americans could not be ordained as minister, were part of what motivated Williams to secede. Williams was the father of Peter Williams, Jr. (1780-1840), the first African American ordained minister in the Protestant Episcopal church. Peter Williams, Jr., became the first leader of St. Phillips African Church in 1819.

Eliza Ann Gardner

African_Methodist_Episcopal_Zion_LogoEliza Ann Gardner is regarded as the “mother” of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Missionary Society and was one of New England’s most tenacious defenders of women’s equality in religious matters.

She was born in New York City on May 28, 1831, the daughter of James and Eliza Gardner. When she was young, the family moved to the predominantly black West End section of Boston, where her father enjoyed a profitable career as a contractor for sailing vessels. His work made it possible for Gardner to enjoy a comfortable childhood, but she quickly learned that many others of her race were less fortunate, and was taught that she had an obligation to help them. Her family was active in the local African Methodist Episcopal Church, and their home served as a station for the Underground Railroad, which smuggled runaway slaves from the South to freedom.

Gardner’s interest in slavery intensified because of her education at the only public school for black children in the city, which was taught by abolitionist teachers. As a result, she became acquainted with many nationally famous abolitionist leaders. An excellent student, Gardner earned a number of scholarships. However, as few black women at the time were able to pursue higher education or professional careers, she learned the art of dressmaking to support herself once she finished school.  Continue reading

Xavier University

xavier uThere are 102 historically Black colleges and 253 Catholic colleges in the United States, yet only one is bothBlack and Catholic. That distinction belongs to Xavier University of Louisiana, which strives to combine the best attributes of both its faith and its culture.

Located in New Orleans, the small liberal arts college dates back to 1915, when St. Katharine Drexel and theSisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded the coeducational secondary school from which it evolved.  Continue reading

Upcoming Black History Posts
  • Martin R. Delany
  • Dr. Percy Lavon Julian
  • Segregation in buses and terminals banned
  • Bethune-Cookman University
  • National Council of Negro women
  • William Tucker
  • Lena Horne
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