Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Black History Month’

 

h63568

 

(In honor of Black History Month)

 

In the predawn hours of May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls’ experienced hands gripped the ship’s wheel of the Planter, though his heart was pounding. Ahead were five checkpoints along the Charleston River, and then the open sea. Within a few hours he and the fifteen others onboard would be free from slavery.

Or, failing to succeed, they would be sinking the ship, jumping overboard and perishing together. They had already decided: being captured was not an option.

Smalls prayed aloud, for the benefit of his crew and passengers: “Lord, we entrust ourselves into thy hands. Like thou didst for the Israelites in Egypt, please stand over us to our promised land of freedom” (1).

The first checkpoint came into view, its lanterns gleaming gold against the darkness. Even though the sentries would not be able to see him clearly, Smalls had taken the precaution of wearing the captain’s coat and straw hat. He even assumed his captain’s posture. And when Smalls gave the correct whistle signal, they allowed him to pass without question.

Robert whispered another prayer, this time of gratitude and praise. He marveled how God had engineered events–starting in his youth–to bring him to this moment:

  • At age twelve, Smalls’ master, Mr. McKee of Beaufort, South Carolina, had rented him to an employer in Charleston. Smalls had worked in the city ever since, as waiter, lamplighter, and then wharf hand.
  • Currently he was employed as wheel hand aboard the Confederate supply ship, Planter, under command of Captain Ripley. His circumstances had allowed him to learn how to sail and how to make the correct whistle signals at checkpoints.
  • The captain and white crew members frequently spent their nights in Charleston, not on the ship. This night was one of them.

 

charleston_s-c-_-_street_scene_-_nara_-_525179

(Charleston street scene by Matthew Brady)

 

  • Smalls enjoyed good rapport with the other ship-hand slaves of the Planter. Without them, this daring getaway would have been impossible.
  • The opportunity for escape presented itself when a pre-dawn mission was scheduled for May 13. Smalls’ 3:30 a.m. departure, although earlier than actually scheduled, did not alert the harbor guards.
  • Smalls had time to notify his wife and children that he would pick them up at a prearranged wharf nearby, prior to the first checkpoint.

A small pinpoint of pale light appeared ahead. Checkpoint Two. Again, the Planter slid by without incident as Smalls signaled to those on shore. Three, four, and five also allowed them to pass.

By sunrise they were sailing into safe Union waters. Upon sighting the first vessel of the Union blockade, Smalls took down the Confederate flag and hoisted a white sheet—just in time before sailors aboard the Onward began firing at the Confederate vessel.

His plan had worked; the little band onboard had escaped to freedom. No doubt their shouts of celebration included, “Thank you, Jesus!”

Smalls surprised the captain of Onward with his knowledge of Rebel fortifications and their locations. Also of value: a book of secret flag signals used by the Confederates, and a full cargo of armaments.

It wasn’t long before Smalls had joined the war effort for the Union, helping to enlist Black men to fight. Nearly 5,000 former slaves fought courageously for the North.

For his part, Smalls became the Union Navy captain for the CSS Planter, the ship he had sailed to freedom. He also captained the ironclad, USS Keokuk.

 

uss_keokuk_h59546

(The USS Keokuk)

 

Smalls led Union ships into waters the Confederacy had protected with mines—mines that Small had helped to plant while enslaved in Charleston. Soldiers deactivated the mines, opening those passageways to Union vessels.

Smalls courageously conducted seventeen missions in and around Charleston, which included assisting in the destruction of railroad bridges in the harbor area.

After the war, Smalls and his family returned to Beaufort, South Carolina. He was awarded the rank of Major General of the South Carolina Militia during Reconstruction, and turned his attention to business, education, and finally, politics.  He opened a general store and started a newspaper. He helped establish the first school built for African-American children in Beaufort County.

 

robert_smalls_-_brady-handy

(Robert Smalls)

 

From 1869 to 1889 Smalls served in both houses of the South Carolina Legislature, and five terms in the U.S. Congress. Referring to his political service, one commentator said, “His record was brilliant, consistent, and indeed he led in all the most prominent measures” (2).

One story in particular highlights Smalls’ Christ-like attitude that impacted his entire life:

 

robert_smalls_house_beaufort_south_carolina

(The McKee/Smalls House in Beaufort, SC)

 

He eventually acquired enough wealth to purchase the house in Beaufort where he and his mother had been slaves of the McKee family. Sometime after Smalls and his family moved in, Mrs. McKee came to the door. By this time she was elderly and perhaps suffering from dementia. She thought the house still belonged to her.

The natural inclination would have been to send her away or have her delivered to her current home. But that was not Robert Smalls’ way. He invited Mrs. McKee inside, gave back to the woman her old bedroom, and then served her.

Robert Smalls died in 1915 at age 76, and was buried with great honors.

In 2001 a Logistics Support Vessel was launched with his name, the Major General Robert Smalls. It was the first ship named for an African-American.

A worthy honoree, indeed.

 

Notes:

(1) Boone, Bishop Wellington, Black Self-Genocide, p. 165.

(2) http://www.docsouth.umc.edu/neh/simmon/simmons.html

 

Sources:

 

Art & photo credits:  www.ibiblio.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (4)

 

(Reblogged from February 2, 2017.  Jury duty has interfered with writing time this week.)

 

Read Full Post »

(In honor of Black History Month)

 

Anyone sitting in the camp meeting that night in 1850 would never guess they were in the presence of greatness-in-the-making, as a thirteen-year old girl prayed to receive Jesus into her life.

After all, she had three strikes against her: she was female, black, and a slave.

But strikes mean nothing to an all-powerful God. He had grand plans for Amanda Matthews, although even she was not aware for a long time.

First, God released her from slavery. Amanda’s father worked nights selling brooms and mats he made, after completing his duties on the Maryland dairy farm where he resided. The money he earned was finally sufficient to pay for his own freedom, and then one by one, the freedom of his wife (from a neighboring farmer) and their five children.

They moved to Pennsylvania and became part of the Underground Railroad, helping other slaves escape to freedom. During that time, Amanda’s heart was expanded by empathy for others and her spirit strengthened by courage.

 

 

Second, God provided opportunity for Amanda to practice his presence and grow in intimacy with him while she worked as a domestic servant.

Later in her autobiography she described the benefit of those years:

 

“…Though your hands are employed in doing your daily business;

it is no bar to the soul’s communion with Jesus.

Many times over my wash-tub and ironing table, and while making my bed

and sweeping my house and washing my dishes,

I have had some of the richest blessings.”

–Amanda Berry Smith

 

Amanda faced more than her share of heartache. Her first husband never returned home after the Civil War, her second husband died of stomach cancer, and four of her five children also died.

Though God certainly did not cause such hardships, he used them to accomplish good purpose (Romans 8:28).

 

(www.quotefancy.com/quote/12006/C-S-Lewis)

 

To assuage her grief and depression, Amanda immersed herself in church activities and camp meetings.  Such occasions not only ministered to Amanda’s aching heart, but provided preparation for what was to come.

Under the leadership of a camp meeting preacher, Amanda was invited to sing (with her expressive, deep contralto voice) and also to speak. She was a commanding presence at nearly six feet tall. But her captivating smile, well-told stories, and clear, biblical presentation soon garnered her more invitations to other churches and revival meetings.

Not that everyone was taken with her. Amanda experienced rejection and racism, as well as prejudicial treatment because she was a woman.

“But I belong to Royalty,” she said. “I am well-acquainted with the King of Kings. I am better known and better understood among the great family above than I am on earth.”

 

 

Others saw and appreciated “God’s image carved in ebony,” as Amanda was sometimes called. Bishop James Thoburn once had occasion to kneel near Amanda during a prayer meeting. Suddenly he heard her singing.

“I looked up,” he said, “and saw the colored sister…with her hands spread out and her face all aglow…Something like a hallowed glow seemed to rest upon the dark face before me, and I felt in a second that she was possessed of a rare degree of spiritual power.” *

Invitations here in America eventually led to invitations abroad—not a typical experience for nineteenth century Americans, much less for a former slave. Amanda must have smiled, perhaps even sang for joy, at the impossibilities God engineered for her.

 

 

In 1878 she traveled to England and stayed for two years, then sailed for India and ministered there for eighteen months.

Finally she spent eight years in Africa, working in churches, traveling by canoe from village to village to share about Jesus, and advocating for better treatment of women and children. While there Amanda adopted two boys.

In 1891 Amanda returned to the United States and settled in Chicago, perhaps at the urging of friends there. Several years later, Amanda began to pursue God’s next venture for her: to establish an orphanage for black children.

By 1899 the dream had become reality, and the Amanda Smith Orphanage and Industrial Home was officially opened in Harvey, Illinois with thirty children.

Funding was provided in part by donors, including Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears and Roebuck, Inc. Another valuable source of funding: Amanda’s newly-written autobiography which sold widely.

By 1912, Amanda’s failing health began to interfere with her ability to handle orphanage affairs.  She was 75 years old.  But God provided a couple willing to take over for her, and Amanda moved south, at the invitation of a wealthy supporter and real estate developer, George Sebring. He provided for her a cottage in his community, Sebring, Florida.

On February 24, 1915 as the result of a stroke, Amanda Berry Smith went home to heaven, to her King of Kings and the great family above—many of whom reside there because Amanda was obedient to God’s call on her life.

 

 

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh, God, let me be gripped with the same spirit of intensity and excitement as Amanda Berry Smith. Keep me mindful that every encounter can be a divine appointment with far-reaching impact. May I also be obedient to your promptings.

 

*Chris Armstrong, http://grateful to the dead.com/2010/11/07/poor-black-and-femaile-amanda-berry-smith-preached-holiness-in-the-teeth-of-racism/

 

Sources:

https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ashland_theological_journal/37-1_065.pdf

http://blackhistorynow.com/amanda-berry-smith/

http://greatawakening.blogspot.com/2010/01/amanda-berry-smith-gods-image-in-ebony.html

https://www.reviveourhearts.com/true-woman/blog/amanda-berry-smith-turning-obstacles-gospel-opport/

http://satucket.com/lectionary/amanda_smith.html

 

Art and photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefacy.com; http://www.flickr. com (Sapphire Photography); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.wikimedia.org)

 

Read Full Post »

(In honor of Black History Month)

 

Isabella, the daughter of James and Elizabeth Baumfree, was born a slave in New York state about 1797. No one knows the exact date, because birth records weren’t kept for “property.”

Did her parents know the name means, “consecrated to God?” Even if they chose the name for its meaning, those parents could not have dreamed of the future awaiting their Baby Belle.

Her early years were difficult.  Belle was sold five times, several times to cruel masters.

At age eighteen or so, Belle fell in love with Robert, a young slave from a nearby farm. The couple had a daughter. But Belle’s master, John Dumont, forbade her to see Robert again. According to the law, all children of the union would belong to Robert’s master, not Dumont.

Two years later, Dumont forced Belle to marry an older slave. They had three children: Peter, Elizabeth, and Sophia.

In 1826, Belle escaped the Dumont farm with Baby Sophia. In a vision, God showed her a particular home to go to. That home belonged to a Quaker family, the Wageners, who took in the young woman and her baby. They even paid Belle’s price to Dumont and made her a free woman. Belle became a housekeeper, then a maid.

Shortly after her escape from slavery, Belle learned that her five-year old son, Peter, had been illegally sold in Alabama. She took the matter to court and won her case. Peter was returned to New York. That was the first time a black woman challenged a white man in a U.S. court. It was also the first time of many that Belle’s resolve and courage were put on display.

Several years later Belle was falsely accused of poisoning her former employer. In 1835 she took that case to court and won again.

Someone must have encouraged Belle to tell her story of being a slave and becoming a free woman. But she had never learned to read or write, so a friend wrote as Belle dictated. A Northern Slave was published in 1850.

In her book, Belle explained that several years after she was freed, God revealed himself to her, “with all the suddenness of a flash of lightning, showing her, in the twinkling of an eye, that he was all over, that he pervaded the universe, and that there was no place where God was not.”

The book sold many copies and Belle became well-known. She was asked to speak at a women’s rights convention in Massachusetts. Before long, Belle was traveling with abolitionist, George Thompson, speaking against slavery and for human rights.

In 1851, Belle gave a speech at another women’s conference, this time in Ohio. She spoke convincingly (and extemporaneously) about women being every bit as capable as a man:

“I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that?”

And, no doubt with a twinkle in her eye, she added:

“As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart — why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble.”

She concluded by asking: “And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part?”

It’s not surprising that some were displeased with Belle’s speeches. One time she was told that the building where she was to preach would be burned down if she dared to speak. “Then I will speak to the ashes,” she replied.

Belle was also physically assaulted. One brutal attack caused permanent injury, and she had to walk with a cane for the rest of her life.

In 1863, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an article about Belle for the Atlantic Monthly:

“I do not recollect ever to have been conversant with anyone who had more of that silent and subtle power which we call personal presence…She seemed perfectly self-possessed and at her ease. An audience was what she wanted—it mattered not whether high or low, learned or ignorant. She had things to say, and was ready to say them at all times, and to anyone.”

Imagine. A slave woman who never had the opportunity to go to school, never learned to read or write. Yet the power of her spoken word helped bring the end of slavery and pave the way for women to be granted the right to vote.

Belle proved:

“There is no difficulty that cannot be defeated.

There is no victory that cannot be achieved,

if you believe in the power of God!”

— Anonymous

Of course, by the time she achieved notoriety, Belle was known by another name.

You see, Belle had asked God for a new name several decades before the Civil War. Again, it was the result of a vision. She said God chose her new first name based on the fact she would travel. Then Belle asked God for a second name, “’cause everybody has two names.” And the Lord granted her request. Her second name proclaimed what Belle always declared from her podium.

Perhaps you remember Sojourner Truth.

 

Sojourner_truth_c1870

(Photo from http://www.wikipedia.org.)

 

Sources:  www.biography.com; http://www.sojournertruth.org; http://www.; http://www.blackpast.org; http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org; http://www.christianitytoday.com.)

Read Full Post »

Living Our Days

Gaining a heart of wisdom

SMALL TOWN STRANIERA

Intentional Faith Living - Italian Style

Strength Renewed

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living the Grace of God

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

-Wings of the Dawn-

Pondering and poetry by heidi viars

Unshakable Hope

"All of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain." (Hebrews 12:27)

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions