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.
Robert Smalls, 1839 – 1915
Smalls was born a slave in South Carolina, a state he always called home. During the American Civil War, he was assigned to the CSS Planter, a Confederate military transport. After gaining the trust of the officers, he commandeered the vessel and used it to bring his family and families of other black crew members to the safety of the Union states. He piloted a number of ships for the Union, including the Planter, and we eventually rewarded for his service. After military life, he became a politician, serving in both the South Carolina and United States House of Representatives. He was a strong advocate for compulsory public education and rose to become a strong business leader.
Daring God, you used Robert Smalls as a beacon of hope and a rescuer for the downtrodden and imprisoned. May we bear a small measure of his courage and act to free those imprisoned unjustly in our own society. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.
Ida B. Wells, 1862 – 1931
Wells was born just before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. After her parents and infant brother died in a yellow fever epidemic, she became a teacher to help support her remaining siblings. Forced to give up her seat on a railroad car, she sued the company and won, but the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the ruling. She was hired as a newspaper editor and journalist, and she used her position to write about and highlight racial injustice, particularly lynching. Her writing put her life in danger on more than one occasion, but she continued to write, bringing the horror of lynching into the public eye. She was one of the key founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
God of truth, through Ida B. Wells, your Spirit brought truth and light to a country blinded by hatred and unable to see its own horror. Make us truth-tellers that shine light on the injustices around us that remain hidden from most. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.