President Gerald Ford said, “In celebrating Black History Month, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout history.”
President Ford gave this notable quote when decreeing February as National Black History Month in 1976. As a way to commemorate this month, consider the following Christian African Americans whose lives and works positively shaped the scope of the nation:
Known as the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Richard Allen first became a Methodist at the young age of 17. He was born into slavery in 1760, but ended up founding his own denomination in 1816. The United States Postal service made a stamp in his honor and described his contributions as follows:
“Richard Allen is one of the most important African-American leaders of his era. His life—a legacy of determination, uplift, charity and faith—remains an inspiration to all Americans.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Of course, this list would include the late, great Martin Luther King Jr. The Reverend, who was an Atlanta, Georgia, native was a renowned civil rights activist. His efforts during the civil rights movement were crucial in achieving the eventual desegregation he hoped to inspire. His biography says the following about his contributions:
“Through his activism and inspirational speeches, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the United State as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1865.”
T. Vaughn Walker
Walker was born in 1950 in Heathsville, Virginia, and earned his doctorate degree from Oregon State University. He gained notoriety in 1986 by becoming the first African-American to ever be appointed into a full-time professor roll at Southern Baptist Convention seminary. He continued his service at the seminary for some 30 years. He also served as senior pastor in the First Gethsemane Baptist Church.
Fred Luter Jr.
Making history as the first African-American President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Fred Luter Jr. won the election unanimously. Richard Land, who is the president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, North Carolina said the following about Luter’s contribution to the Southern Baptist Convention:
“His extraordinary faith and leadership will hasten the journey, (towards inclusion in the convention) and Southern Baptist are indeed blessed that God raised up Fred Luter to lead us at such a time as this in our denomination’s and our country’s, history.”
The Reverend Jerena Lee became the first official female preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. She was born to free black parents in 1783 in Cape May, New Jersey, and went on to be given authorization to preach in 1819. According to the AME Church’s Social Action Commission, Lee “Proclaimed the Gospel extensively throughout the Northeastern United States and Canada, traveling more than 2,800 miles by foot, preaching more than 692 sermons.”
Earning the nickname “Moses” for her efforts in leading slaves to freedom, nineteenth century abolitionist Harriet Tubman certainly helped shape the nation enjoyed by all people today. Tubman, who was a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church had visions from her youth. As noted in the Prague Review, “Like Joan of Arc before her, Tubman believed she possessed divine visions and communication with a higher existence.”
The review went on to add, “It wasn’t just Tubman who believed this but the people around her as well. Slaves would remark on how Tubman would ‘consult with God’ on journeys back north. It was said at Port Royal during the Civil War, when she treated the ill, yet contracted no disease herself, that Tubman must be blessed by God.”
Charles Albert Tindley
Gospel music pioneer Charles Albert Tindley rounds out this list of African-Americans who helped shaped the nation. His contributions to music during his time remain relevant even in modern day. Tindely’s compositions, which include recognizable tunes such as “Nothing Between,” “Stand by Me,” and “Beams of Heaven” had a great influence on Roberta Martin and Thomas A. Dorsey who formed the base of gospel music in the black urban sector. Tindley’s later contributions such as “He’ll Take You Through,” “I’ll Be Satisfied,” “The Home of the Soul,” “A Better Day is Coming By-and By,” and “Spiritual Springtime” earned him the moniker “father of gospel music.”
~ 1776 Christian