Twenty-Eight Saints: February 11 and 12

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.

February 11
Jackie Robinson, 1919 – 1972

Rare is the baseball fan who doesn’t know the name Jackie Robinson. The pinnacle of athleticism, Robinson excelled in school playing baseball, basketball, football, tennis, and running track and field. Robinson gained a reputation in college for standing up to racism, and he continued to excel in sports until he was drafted into the Army during World War II. After he returned to baseball, playing in the Negro Leagues, he was recruited by the Brooklyn Dodgers and sent to the minors, where he encountered resistance to his presence on the team. When he was called up to play for the Dodgers in 1947, he became the first black player in major league baseball since 1880. He continued to encounter racial prejudice from his own team and their opponents, but his presence slowly broke down barriers and made strides for civil rights. After his retirement, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame and his number, 42, was retired league-wide, the first number to be retired in this way. He continued to be an active and political voice in the civil rights movement until his death.

God of talents, you gave your servant Jackie Robinson strength to pursue his dream and strength in the face of discrimination and prejudice. Give us the same strength to confront injustice around us.  In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

 

February 12,
Sarah E. Gorham, 1832 – 1894

Little is known about Gorham’s early life, and although her birth year is known, there’s almost no record of her before 1880, when visited some of her family who had moved to Liberia. She spent a year there preaching and tending to the sick. This visit inspired her, and a few years after she returned to the United States, she volunteered to be a missionary in the African Methodist Episcopal Church at the age of 56. She was the first single woman to take this role and served at the Magbele mission in Sierra Leone. She established the Sarah Gorham Mission School to teach both religious and industrial education.

Calling God, you chose your servant Sarah E. Gorman as a missionary to Sierra Leone and moved her half-way across the world to serve. Move us and place us where you need us to be to be your light. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.

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Twenty-Eight Saints: February 9 and 10

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.

February 9
Nannie Helen Burroughs, 1879 – 1961

Burroughs was born in Virginia but moved to Washington, D.C. at the age of four. While in school she organized the Harriet Beecher Stowe Literary Society and met Anna J. Cooper and Mary Church Terrell, who inspired her to be active in the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements. When she was denied a teaching job because her skin was too dark, Burroughs established the National Training School for Women and Girls so they could make a living and combat the common stereotype of African-Americans as immoral and dirty people through an impeccable work ethic and pride in themselves. She was active in the National Baptist Convention, the National Association of Colored Women, and was appointed to work in the Herbert Hoover administration on a Negro housing committee.

God of revelation, you used your servant Nannie Helen Burroughs to empower the oppressed through the light of knowledge and education. As we struggle against injustice, teach us, that we may go out and teach others. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

 

February 10,
Isaac Myers, 1835 – 1891

Though he was born in a slave state, Myers was born a free man. Educated in a private school because the public schools were not open to blacks, Myers found work as a caulker on ships. When white caulkers protested and went on strikes because of the competition with black caulkers, causing 1000 of them to lose their jobs in response, Myers organized a co-operative shipyard and railway for black workers. He founded the Colored Caulkers Trade Union Society, which was invited to the National Labor Union convention. But when the CCTUS faced opposition from the all-white NLU, Myers formed the Colored National Labor Union. He briefly worked as a Customs Agent and postal service agent under Ulysses S. Grant before returning to the life of a laborer, running a coal yard in Baltimore.

God of creation and laboring, you called your servant Isaac Myers to organize the oppressed and advocate for just working practices. Empower us to work for the safety and good of those who labor alongside us in our daily lives. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.

Twenty-Eight Saints: February 7 and 8

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.

February 7
John Mercer Langston, 1829 – 1897

Langston was born a free man to a white man who freed his slave and began a relationship with her that last over 25 years, Langston’s mother. After his parents died when he was four years old, he and his siblings moved in with the man his father arranged to be his guardian and began preparatory school at Oberlin College, the first black students to be admitted. After earning a master’s degree in theology he attempted to go to law school, but was denied because of his race. He studied as an apprentice and was admitted to the Ohio bar. He was active in the abolitionist movement, worked with the Underground Railroad, recruited black troops for the Union Army during the Civil War, founded the National Equal Rights League, and was appointed the first dean of the Howard University law department and first president of Virginia State University. He was the first black congressional representative from Virginia, and the last for almost a hundred years after.

God who created the world in orderly fashion, your servant John Mercer Langston wielded the power of law to fight for the freedom of his people. Send your spirit to move us to fight for just laws that empower rather than oppress.  In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

 

February 8,
Madam C. J. Walker, 1867 – 1919

Sarah Breedlove was born after the Emancipation Proclamation, and was thus the first person in her family born free instead of a slave. Orphaned at the age of seven, she moved in with family, married, and when her husband died, married another before leaving him. Her third husband, Charles Joseph Walker, is how she took the name Madam C. J. Walker. Like many black women, she suffered skin conditions because of the harsh products used to wash hair and clothing. In response, she developed her own line of beauty products and sold them door to door. She grew that small operation into an empire of factories, beauty schools, and training centers that employed thousands of women, teaching them how to be successful business entrepreneurs themselves. She used her wealth and influence to speak for and fund many organizations in the Civil Rights Movement and her will designated two thirds of her future profits to charity. At the time of her death, she was the wealthiest black woman in America.

God of love, your servant Madam C. J. Walker took all that you gave her and used it to bless others. May we use our wealth and our talents not for our own comfort, but for the liberation of others. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.