Southern Work

The Southern work, located in the southern states of the United States, primarily referred to outreach work of the SDA Church in that area that included evangelism, witnessing, community, education, health and other ministries for the white and black people living there. This section more specifically focuses on the statements Ellen White made in reference to black people living in the region, who were neglected and overlooked by the church until the 1890s.


Need for Action

We [white people] cannot leave them [black people] as we have left them in the past.

Our Duty to the Colored People, March 21, 1891

I understand that you intend that the colored work in the South will be your first interest. Well, work away.

Manuscript 28, 1903

The powers of hell are working with all their ingenuity to prevent the proclamation of the last message of mercy among the colored people.

Testimonies, Volume 9 (1909), 208


Do Something

Sin rests upon us as a church because we have not made greater effort for the salvation of souls among the colored people.

Our Duty to the Colored People, March 21, 1891

We are one brotherhood. No matter what the gain or the loss, we must act nobly and courageously in the sight of God and our Savior. Let us as Christians who accept the principle that all men, white and black, are free and equal, adhere to this principle, and not be cowards in the face of the world, and in the face of the heavenly intelligences. We should treat the colored man just as respectfully as we would treat the white man. And we can now, by precept and example, win others to this course.

Manuscript 7, 1896

In this field [among Southern blacks] there were precious jewels that the Lord's workers should have searched for as for hidden treasure.

Testimonies, Volume 7 (1902), 222

Discover Needs

There is in this country a great, unworked field. The colored race, numbering thousands upon thousands, appeals to the consideration and sympathy of every true, practical believer in Christ. These people do not live in a foreign country, and they do not bow down to idols of wood and stone. They live among us, and again and again, through the testimonies of His Spirit, God has called our attention to them, telling us that here are human beings neglected. This broad field lies before us unworked, calling for the light that God has given us in trust.

Testimonies, Volume 8 (1904), 205


Acceptable Work

Let no one look upon the work that has been done for the colored people as of no account, for the Lord has said, 'I accept it.'

General Conference Bulletin, April 14, 1903

O, that we might catch a glimpse of the work God desires us to accomplish for the colored people in the South!

Gospel Herald, May 1, 1908

Pensive Questions

Some time ago I seemed to be, during the night season, in a meeting in which the work in the Southern field was being discussed. The questions were asked by a company of intelligent colored people: "Has God no message for the colored people of the South? Have they no souls to save? Does not the new covenant include them? If the Lord is soon to come, is it not time that something was done for the Southern field?

Testimonies, Volume 7 (1902), 223

Educational Outreach

Eternity alone will reveal the work accomplished for the colored people by the small schools at Vicksburg, Yazoo City, and other points in the South.

Testimonies, Volume 7 (1902), 231

We need now more schools and colleges where the colored people can obtain a Christian education.

Manuscript 75, 1906

Nashville Challenge

In and near the city [Nashville] are large educational institutions for the colored people.  The influence of these institutions has prepared the way for us to make this city a center for our work.

Testimonies, Volume 7 (1902), 232

There are those in these institutions [HBCUs in Nashville] who are to be reached by the third angel’s message.

Testimonies, Volume 7 (1902), 233

Determination to Act

To many of the colored people, the difficulties against which they have to contend seem almost insurmountable. But there are those who will not give up.

Gospel Herald, May 1, 1908

Some may contend that we cannot afford to allow young persons of talent to engage in this line of work. "Cannot afford it!" If there is but one soul to be saved, that soul is more precious than all the combined wealth of this world.

On the Work among Blacks, Pamphlet 113 (1909), 9


The colored members of ability and experience…are to be heard in the representative assemblies.

Testimonies, Volume 9 (1909), 207

We need the talent of the colored believers, every jot of it, in this work.

Testimonies, Volume 9 (1909), 210

Southern Challenge

The Lord is grieved by the woe in the Southern field. Christ has wept at the sight of this woe. Angels have hushed the music of their harps as they have looked upon a people unable, because of their past slavery, to help themselves. And yet those in whose hands God has placed the torch of truth, kindled from the divine altar, have not realized that to them is given the work of carrying the light to this sin-darkened field.

Redeem the Neglect: There are those who have turned away from the work of rescuing the downtrodden and degraded, refusing to help the helpless. Let the servants of Christ begin at once to redeem their neglect, that the dark stain on their record may be wiped out.

Neglect if Dishonoring: The present condition of the Southern field is dishonoring to the Redeemer. But shall it lead us to believe that the commission which Christ gave to His disciples when He told them to preach the gospel to all nations, cannot be fulfilled? No, No! Christ has power for the fulfillment of His commission. He is fully able to do the work laid upon Him. In the wilderness, armed with the weapon, "It is written," He met and overcame the strongest temptations that the enemy could bring against Him. He proved the power of the word. It is God's people who have failed. That His word has not the power on hearts that it ought to have is shown by the present condition of the world. But it is because men have chosen to disobey, not because the word has less power.

Divine Sadness: The Lord has looked with sadness upon that most pitiful of all sights, the colored race in slavery. He desires us, in our work for them, to remember their providential deliverance from slavery, their common relationship to us by creation and by redemption, and their right to the blessings of freedom.   

Unanswered Appeal: Some time ago I seemed to be, during the night season, in a meeting in which the work in the Southern field was being discussed. The questions were asked by a company of intelligent colored people: "Has God no message for the colored people of the South? Have they no souls to save? Does not the new covenant include them? If the Lord is soon to come, is it not time that something was done for the Southern field?

Reaching Over and Passing By: "We do not," it was said, "question the need of missions in foreign lands. But we do question the right of those who claim to have present truth to pass by millions of human beings in their own country, many of whom are as ignorant as the heathen. Why is it that so little is done for the colored people of the South, many of whom are ignorant and destitute, and need to be taught that Christ is their Creator and Redeemer? How can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? How can they hear without a preacher? And how can one preach except he be sent?

An Unavoidable Obligation: "We lay this matter before those who profess to believe the truth for this time. What are you doing for the unenlightened colored race? Why have you not a deeper sense of the necessities of the Southern field? Does there not rest upon ministers of the gospel the responsibility of setting in operation plans whereby this people can be educated? Does not the commission of the Saviour teach this? Is it right for professing Christians to hold themselves aloof from this work, allowing a few to carry the burden? In all your plans for medical missionary work and foreign missionary work, has God given you no message for us?"

A Real Need: Then He who has authority arose, and called upon all to give heed to the instruction that the Lord has given in regard to the work in the South. He said: "Much more evangelistic work should be done in the South. There should be a hundred workers where now there is but one. 

Reaping and Sowing: "Let the people of God awake. Think you that the Lord will bless those who have felt no burden for this work, and who permit the way of its advancement to be hedged up?

Varied Responses: As these words were spoken, deep feeling was manifested. Some offered themselves as missionaries, while others sat in silence, apparently taking no interest in the subject.

 What Could Have Been: Then the words were spoken: "The South is a most unpromising field; but how changed would it be from what it is now if, after the colored people had been released from slavery, men and women had worked for them as Christians ought to work, teaching them how to care for themselves!" 

As It Was So It Is: The condition of the colored people in the South is no more disheartening than was the condition of the world when Christ left heaven to come to its aid. He saw humanity sunken in wretchedness and sinfulness. He knew that men and women were depraved and degraded, and that they cherished the most loathsome vices. Angels marveled that Christ should undertake what seemed to them a hopeless task. They marveled that God could tolerate a race so sinful. They could see no room for love. But "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. 

Testimonies, Volume 7, 722-725 (Italicized headings added by compilers.)