As we review the rise and progress of the Advent message
among Negro Seventh-day Adventists, we can truly say that "we have nothing
to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us,
and His teaching in our past history."—Life Sketches, p. 196.
It affords me much pleasure to submit to our readers a few
facts regarding the history of our work in this country, where, as far as facts
have been unearthed, the first seed was sown in Kentucky, in 1871, by Silas
Osborne (white), himself a Kentuckian who had accepted the views of Seventh-day
Adventists in Iowa. He was not a minister but had great ability to speak upon
the prophecies of the Bible. He was frequently addressed by those not of the
faith as the Reverend Osborne.
The first Seventh-day Adventist colored church in all the
world was organized at Edgefield Junction, Tennessee, 1883. The donations
secured through the Sabbath school on the first Sabbath amounted to twenty-five
cents. The believers erected a building at the cost of $300. The tithe paid in
one year by its fifty members amounted to $50.
A colored believer, A. Barry, who had received the message
through reading the Signs and was
later licensed to preach, brought out a company in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1889.
It was in the year 1895 that the missionary boat The Morning Star, manned by Mrs. White's
son, James Edson White, and W. O. Palmer, became known as the "Morning Star"
in the lives of hundreds of colored people along the Mississippi River. This
missionary venture was financed by the sale throughout our denominational ranks
of the book Gospel Primer, familiar to every Seventh-day Adventist child
of the day.
Mrs. White issued many testimonies concerning the need of
work on behalf of the colored race. All her writings have been impartial
concerning the colored race. She was truly God's messenger, inspired from
above—a great leader of the Advent body. Every member of the church should
acquaint himself with the writings of her many books, especially the volumes
known as Testimonies to the Church.
In the year 1895 a school was established near Huntsville,
Alabama. It was known as Oakwood Industrial
Institute, established by the General Conference. The
purpose of this school was to train workers for the cause of God. It grew to a junior
college, and in 1943 was recognized as a senior college, issuing the B. A.
It was in the year 1909 that the colored believers,
numbering one thousand, were organized by the General Conference with the title
"The Negro Department of Seventh-day Adventists." In 1918 the late W.
H. Green was elected the first Negro secretary of the department. After the
sudden death of Elder Green in the spring of 1929, G. E. Peters was elected to
fill his place. At the General Conference in 1930, G. E. Peters tendered his
resignation, having expressed an earnest desire to continue his active
evangelism. He was then appointed to the work in New York City. That same year F.
L. Peterson was elected secretary of the Negro Department. In 1934
Elder Peterson published his book, The Hope of the Race. It has found its way into thousands of homes.
In 1935 the Message Magazine was issued for circulation principally among the
colored race. L. B. Reynolds
became the first Negro editor of the Message Magazine. He
was elected to that responsibility in the year 1945. For many years treatment
rooms were operated on Youngs Lane, Nashville, Tennessee, by the late Mrs.
Druillard. This was turned over to the General Conference in 1936 and operated
on a larger scale. The new building, with its equipment, valued at more than
half a million dollars, was dedicated in September, 1948. Dr. J. M. Cox is the
present medical director.
The tithe of colored Seventh-day Adventists in North America
for the past three years, 1946-1949 inclusive, amounted to $3,489,025.25. The total missions offerings for
the same period amounted to $1,486,226.38.
During the last thirty-nine years the membership has grown
from one thousand to twenty-four thousand. Of this number 6,689 were baptized
during the last three years. There are 178 ministers employed—ordained and
licensed—beside forty lady workers known as Bible instructors. One hundred and
thirty two teachers are employed in our intermediate and high schools; 297 colporteurs
are engaged in the distribution of our literature.
C. M. Kinney, the first Negro to be ordained to the
Seventh-day Adventist ministry, is still alive at the age of 96.
At present there are five organized conferences and two
organized missions fully staffed with officers and workers. Our work on the
Pacific Coast still retains the department organization.
The present secretary of the Colored Department of the
General Conference was elected in 1941. He is also editor of THE NORTH AMERICAN
Through the years great and important events have followed one
another in quick succession. There have been many innovations. We face changed
conditions and new responsibilities. The task before us is great, and its
accomplishment calls for men with wisdom and strength.
We need greater vision, undaunted courage, and boundless
faith. Our ministry needs to be baptized anew with the spirit and power from on
high for the winning of souls.
Our believers must be imbued with the spirit of sacrifice,
of service, such as has never been witnessed since the day of Pentecost. The outlook
before us is fraught with danger and difficulty, but it is bright with promise.
The same mighty Captain who has led us on during past years is still our
leader. Therefore, victory is sure.
His admonition is, "Be strong and of a good courage; be
not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee
whithersoever thou goest." G.E.P.
-The North American Informant, October 1949