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.
Maria W. Stewart, 1803 – 1879
Stewart was born to free black parents, and when they died when she was five years old, she was sent to live with a minister and his wife as a servant. Though she received no formal education outside of Sabbath School on Sundays, she rose to prominence as a speaker on issues such as black women’s rights. She was the first black woman to speak to a mixed-race, mixed-gender audience, and published several pamphlets and religious meditations. Though she didn’t call her speeches “sermons”, she is regarded as an exceptional preacher, constantly critiquing Southern slavery and Northern racism. She eventually took a job teaching to support herself and to give runaway slaves a chance at an education and better life. She is commemorated as a saint on several liturgical calendars.
Brave God, you lifted up your servant Maria W. Steward to preach your word and speak for the oppressed to ears not always willing to hear. Give us the same courage in the face of adversity to share your word and fight against injustice. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.
William H. McAlpine, 1847 – 1905
McAlpine was born a slave in Virginia and remained a slave until his emancipation at the end of the Civil War. He attended Talladega College, but had to drop out because of his work as a carpenter. He joined a Baptist church and was licensed to preach in 1871. As a member of the Colored Missionary Baptist Society of Alabama, he brought a resolution to found a new school, which became Selma University, where he served as the second president and dean of the theology department. He was a close friend of Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington and organized the first Baptist Foreign Missionary Convention.
God of the church, you called your servant William H. McAlpine to preach your word and teach your children. Use us to spread your good news for all who suffer under oppression. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.
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Although she is misidentified all over the internet as Stewart, the woman in the picture is Sarah Harris Fayerweather. She’s significant in her own right and you might want to join the movement to correct the error and write a piece about her; have a look. To date, there is no known picture of Maria W. Stewart.