February in the United States is Black History Month. In honor of that month, each day in February will feature an African-American saint from different periods of the Civil Rights Movements in America.
Booker T. Washington, 1856 – 1915
Washington was born a slave in Virginia and freed when the Civil War ended. Gaining an education and rising in prominence as a voice protesting discrimination against African-Americans, Washington was the first leader and teacher of the newly founded Tuskegee Institute, a school for black students. He was also known as an advocate for African-American businesses, seeing the social and economic benefit of the business world. But it was his “Atlanta Compromise” speech that gained him national renown. Taking a long-term approach to ending discrimination, he advocated for African-Americans to work for better lives while tolerating segregation in the present, short-term. This put him in conflict with other leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois, but in agreement with the white moderates in power who advocated caution and baby steps. Nevertheless, Washington continued to advocate in private for legal challenges against the practice of segregation. Known for his pragmatic approach, Washington is remembered as an advisor to presidents and a leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
Gracious God, your servant Booker T. Washington rose from the oppression slavery to a life of advocacy and pragmatism. Raise us up and give us voices for those who remain in oppression. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.
Sojourner Truth, 1797 – 1883
Born Isabella Baumfree, she lived as a slave to a wealthy New York family before escaping with her infant daughter. When she found out one of her sons, whom she was not able to take with her, had been illegally sold, she took her case to court and won, the first black woman to win a court case against a white man. Experiencing a religious revelation, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and spoke often and loudly for the abolition movement. Her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech given in Akron, Ohio, put her name on the national stage. She recruited black soldiers for the Union Army during the Civil War, tried to secure land grants for freed slaves, and was an outspoken advocate for women’s rights. Such is her legacy that in 2020, she will be featured on the $10 bill.
God of in-spiriting, you called your servant Sojourner Truth to new walks of life, paving the way for others to follow. Let your Spirit fall on us, that we may speak Truth to a world still trapped by oppression and hatred. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.