Twenty-Eight Saints: February 15 and 16

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 15
Harriet Tubman, c. 1822 – 1913

Tubman was born Araminta Ross and a slave sometime around 1822. Though illiterate, her mother Harriet told her Bible stories, and those stories instilled in Tubman a strong, unwavering faith. She experienced prophetic visions and dreams throughout her life, which she attributed to God. After marrying, she changed her name to Harriet. After an aborted escape attempt in 1849, Tubman finally escaped slavery and reached Pennsylvania. Becoming a conductor on the Underground Railroad, she risked her life many times to return and help other slaves escape to freedom, helping perhaps as many as 70. She worked with the Union army during the Civil War. Later in her life she fought for women’s suffrage and was active in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church. Until recently, there were plans to include her portrait on the $20 bill.

Liberating God, through your servant Harriet Tubman you brought freedom and safety to those escaping slavery. Give us the same courage to defy injustice and lead others to liberation. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

 

February 16,
Ralph Abernathy, 1926 – 1990

Abernathy seemed to have been born to fight injustice. In school, he protested the inferior equipment in the science lab until better equipment was purchased. He served in the United States Army during World War II. In college,  he led a hunger strike to improve the quality of food in the cafeteria. He discerned a call to ministry and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1948. He met Martin Luther King, Jr. a few years later and mentored him. After Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus, he helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. His home was bombed in retaliation, though his family was unharmed. Abernathy was in the hotel room when King was assassinated on the balcony. Afterward, Abernathy assumed leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and continued to lead protests and marches in support of civil rights.

God of cloud and fire, just as you led your people through the desert, you called your servant Ralph Abernathy to lead the way in the fight for civil rights. May we too be beacons of hope and leadership in the continued struggle against injustice. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.

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Twenty-Eight Saints: February 13 and 14

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 13
Richard Allen, 1760 – 1831

Allen was born a slave in Virginia. After attending Methodist society meetings (free black and slaves were welcome), he joined the Methodists at the age of 17. When a minister came to his owner’s plantation and preached against the evil’s of slavery, Allen’s owner was moved and gave his slaves the opportunity to buy their freedom, which Allen did. After becoming a preacher, he found himself only allowed to participate and lead in certain situations because of his race. He and Absalom Jones led their black congregants out of their congregations, and Allen formed the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first truly independent black denomination in the United States. He also ran a station on the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape to safety in the northern states.

Creating God, out of the sea of discrimination you called your servant Richard Allen to preach and lead your people, slaves and free, to safety. Guide us to provide safe havens for the oppressed in our midst. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

 

February 14,
Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, 1872 – 1906

Wright dedicated her life to education, even in the face of deadly resistance. She attended the Tuskegee Institute and left to help with a rural school for black children in South Carolina. When the school burned down, she returned to the Tuskegee Institute to graduate. She started many other schools in Denmark, South Carolina, but each was either burned down, blocked, or closed for other reasons. With donations from the Vorhees family, she opened the Vorhees Industrial School for high school age boys and girls, the only school in the area where black children could attend, where she served as principal. The school later affiliated with the Episcopal Church, became an accredited school, and is now one of the historically black colleges in the United States.

Revealing God,  your servant Elizabeth Evelyn Wright brought education to the oppressed even in the face of fierce opposition. Give us the strength to face those who oppose justice and use education to challenge injustice. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.

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.