Timeline of Black Adventist History
1800 - 1864
Compiled by Benjamin Baker
May 23: Eri L. Barr, believed to be the first black Adventist minister, is born in Reading, Vermont.
John West, the second black Adventist minister, is born enslaved in Baltimore, Maryland.
William Ellis Foy, later a black Millerite minister, is born in Kennebec County, Maine.
January 9: William J. Hardy, an early black Adventist and the first elected black politician in the state of Michigan, is born in New York State.
July 13: William F. Minisee, one of the first black Adventists, is born in New York State.
November 26: Ellen Gould Harmon (later White) is born in Gorham, Maine.
August 14: William Miller starts to preach the return of Christ "about 1843."
November 12-13: The leonid meteor shower occurs. Frederick Douglass, then a 15-year old slave in Talbot County, Maryland, writes this of the event: “I witnessed this gorgeous spectacle, and was awestruck. The air seemed filled with bright descending messengers from the sky. It was about daybreak when I saw this sublime scene. I was not without the suggestion, at that moment that it might be the harbinger of the coming of the Son of Man; and in my then state of mind I was prepared to hail Him as my Friend and Deliverer. I had read that the ‘stars shall fall from heaven,’ and they were now falling. I was suffering very much in my mind. … I was looking away to heaven for the rest denied me on earth.”
William Foy is converted and baptized by Silas Curtis, pastor of the Freewill Baptist church in Augusta, Maine.
November 1: A letter appears in Signs of the Times from William Miller lamenting that he could not attend the first Millerite General Conference: "I had set my heart on this, to see and to hear Brothers Jones, Litch, Ward, Cole, Himes, Plumer, Millard, Burnham, French, Parker, Medbury, Ayres, Smith, and others. Yes, and then to see those private brethren, too; Br. Shaw,—ah, I can see him smile; Br. Nichols—I feel his benevolent shake of the hand; and Br. Wood, too—but I cannot name them all. Those colored brethren, too, at Belknap St. with Christian hearts; Heaven, I hope, has stamped them as its favorites. Oh! I had vainly hoped to see you all, to breathe and feel that sacred flame of love, of heavenly fire; to hear and speak of that dear blessed Savior’s near approach."
January 18: William Foy has first vision in religious gathering at venue on Southock (currently Phillips) Street in Boston.
February 6: Pastor J.B. Husted and several members of Second Methodist Episcopal Church request Foy to share his visions the next day at their church. Foy consents.
February 7: Foy speaks on his visions to Second Methodist Episcopal Church on Bromfield Street in Boston.
March-May: Foy commences speaking tour on his visions. The Harmon family (including daughter Ellen) attend Foy’s lectures and hear about his visions.
March 15: Josiah Litch reports in Signs of the Times: "The glad tidings of the coming of the Lord, is received with the greatest joy by the poor colored people, as being the only hope they have of deliverance. Whenever the subject of the Lord’s coming is named to them their eyes sparkle with joy; it is, you may be assured, a far more welcome sound to them, than to their rich lords. O what an hour of interest to them, when the trump of Jubilee shall sound, and the servant be free from his master. All efforts at emancipation before that hour are perfectly vain and futile. As long as human nature is what it is, and the love of power which is now inherent in the human breast, exists, slavery will exist. But, “The year of Jubilee is come.” Thanks be to God. “Be patient, brethren, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh,” is the only comfort I can give the slave."
March 29: Josiah Litch notes in Signs of the Times: “The colored people likewise sent in their request for lectures.”
April 5: Signs of the Times notes that “A pious Negro, recently a slave in Virginia, when asked if the slaves knew any thing about the coming of Christ, replied, that the pious slaves do, and they have been praying about it these ten years, but the whites knew nothing about it.” How could they know it? They were taught by the spirit, as good old Simeon was, about Christ’s first coming. Daniel says the wise, (that is the pious) shall understand."
May 25: During a Millerite meeting at Boston Anniversary Week a collection of $30 was taken up for John W. Lewis, "a highly esteemed colored preacher, who is ready to spend his whole time and strength in laboring among that much neglected class of our brethren, with whom he is most closely connected."
June 14: Charles Greene reports from Philadelphia that "Public meetings have been constantly held in the city, (the hitherto neglected colored population being particularly attended to,) while laborers have been sent to the adjoining states, and through the blessing of God, much good has been done."
Summer: Sojourner Truth (formerly Isabella Van Wagener) visits and speaks at two Millerite camp meetings.
December 9: A letter from Mary J. Lewis, "a very intelligent colored sister, in Mississippi, who chanced to be in this city at the time of the "Tent Meeting," and became a convert to the Second Advent faith" appears in the Millerite paper The Western Midnight Cry.
William Still, a black preacher who spent his life working with the Anti-Slavery Society and the Underground Railroad, accepts the Millerite teachings. He wrote in his 1886 autobiography: "In 1843 the lectures of Father Miller (as he was called) on the Second Coming of Christ fell into my hands, and were read with great interest. I never before had had my mind awakened to the idea of any literal reign or restitution. I therefore resolved to read whatever I could find in the Bible and out of it bearing on the Second Coming. In doing so I was struck with the seeming harmony which existed between the great Book and the doctrines of those who discussed the subject. I felt that, however variant opinions were, or whatever was said, He must come. No part of the Bible had such an influence in determining my convictions as Matthew, chapter 24. Nevertheless, I never got so far as to believe that any man was infallible, nor that any one understood all there was in the Scriptures, nor that, if the predicted time of the coming failed, I was to have no faith in the Bible, but I was persuaded, rather, that 'neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, should separate us from the love of God which is in Christ.' So when 1843-4 passed, my faith and hope remained unchanged in the All-Supreme."
February 14: Joshua V. Himes writes, "The colored people have opened the Wesley Chapel in Sixth St. to us, and seem to be much interested in the doctrine. We shall continue here, Providence permitting, over the Sabbath."
March 6: Joshua V. Himes writes, "Many of the colored people have received the doctrine. One of their most efficient ministers has embraced the doctrine in full, and will devote himself wholly to the proclamation of it. The people of color will therefore have a congregation, where the Advent doctrine will be fully proclaimed."
April 6: Millerite preacher Enoch Jacobs reports: "In passing through one of the streets towards the close of the day, I discovered an aged man of color, leaning upon his staff, and as his countenance had a worn, and lonely appearance, the thought struck me that he was a proper subject to receive joyfully the whole truth of God....I asked him if he had heard anything about the Saviour’s soon expected Advent? He said he had not, only by way of derision, and was anxious that I should tell him about it. I gave him some brief outlines of the doctrine, and stated to him my full belief in what the prophets had spoken.—Every feature of his countenance seemed to kindle with joy as lie said, "Oh how glad I shall be to have it true."
April 24: Millerite preacher S. Chapman writes from Rhode Island: "From this wicked place I went to South Kingston, and held a series of meetings with the natives, or colored people, at their new meeting house, which was kindly opened for that purpose. The people came together here as in Charleston, for nearly two weeks, during which time the whole church became revived, and many sinners were converted, nearly all of whom, as in C. heartily embraced the advent faith; the good work in this place was not confined to the colored people."
Summer: William Foy has third and fourth visions.
October 22: Tens of thousands of Millerites' belief that Jesus Christ will return to earth does not occur, resulting in what became known as "The Great Disappointment."
December 7: Black Millerite preacher William Watkins writes: "It cannot but be a source of gratification to you and your invincible coadjutors, amidst your fiery trials, to learn that there is in Baltimore a small, but firm band of colored Advent believers, who, notwithstanding their late grievous disappointment, still see cogent reasons for clinging, with unwonted tenacity, to the heaven-inspired hope of soon seeing “the Lord HIMSELF descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.”
January 3: William Foy registers The Christian Experience of William E. Foy with Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the state of Maine and it is entered according to an act of Congress. Christian Experience is published shortly after.
William Foy attends meeting in which Ellen White describes her vision. Foy interrupts White exclaiming that he had similar revelation.
August 30: James Springer White and Ellen Gould Harmon are married.
November 16: Emma MacDearmon (later White) is born. In the mid-to-late 1890s she would join her husband, James Edson White, and others, to form the Southern Missionary Society, a group that pioneered the Adventist work among blacks in Mississippi.
July 28: James Edson White, James and Ellen White's second son, is born. In the mid-to-late 1890s Edson and others would form the Southern Missionary Society, a group that pioneered the Adventist work among blacks in Mississippi.
November 2: Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (later Adventist Review) begins publication.
May 19: A J.N. Andrews article titled "Thoughts on Revelation XIII and XIV" appears in the Review and Herald in which the United States as the lamblike beast of Revelation 13:11-18 based on its treatment of black people: “If ‘all men are born free and equal,’ how do we then hold three million slaves in bondage? Why is it that the negro race are reduced to the ranks of chattels personal, and bought and sold like brute beasts?”…the lamb is such only in pretensions. He [America] is dragon in character.”
February: James and Ellen White visit the Elias L. and Henrietta J. Platt family, African Americans residing in Bath, New York. James wrote in the Review: "We formed a happy acquaintance with Bro. and Sr. Platt who kindly entertained us much of the time we were in Bath. We were delighted with the order, and good behaviour of their dear children. We do not design to flatter; but as an orderly family, where children are trained as they should be, is so seldom found, we cannot refrain from mentioning this case. We hope to hear that the entire household is devoted to God, observing all his commandments."
September 30: Ellen White has a vision that several ministers, among them E.L. Barr, are "to be depended upon."
John W. Lewis publishes The Life, Labor, and Travels of Elder Charles Bowles. Lewis was a prominent black Millerite leader, and it is rumored that Bowles held to the Millerite doctrine.
June 23: In an epic poem that appeared in the Review and Herald entitled "The Warning Voice of Time and Prophecy," Uriah Smith castigates the United States for its slave institution, identifying the U.S. as Babylon and the beast.
January 1854: Around this time, John West is converted to Sabbatarian Adventism.
February 21: The Review and Herald runs the J.N. Andrews article "What is Babylon." In it Andrews states: “The Protestant church at the present time holds many hundred thousand slaves. Nor is the fact to be disguised, that the professed church is now the right arm of the slave power. This great fact identifies the Protestant church as a part of Babylon, with absolute certainty.”
March 21: J.N. Loughborough, in a Review and Herald article "The Two-Horned Beast," identifies the United States as Babylon because of its treatments of blacks:
March 19: In the article "The Two-Horned Beast" in the Review and Herald, J.N. Loughborough writes: “In the institution of Slavery is more especially manifested, thus far, the dragon spirit that dwells in the heart of this hypocritical nation. The fearful strides which this government has made on this question up to the present, afford small ground of hope for the future.”
June: William and Eliza Hardy learn about the Adventist message from an evangelistic meeting held by Joseph B. Frisbie in Caledonia, Michigan. Eliza accepts the truth and prepares for baptism; William commits a short time later.
October 5: John Byington, first president of the General Conference, stays with the Hardys, a black Adventist family, in Caledonia, Michigan.
April 29: A letter from William J. Hardy to editor Uriah Smith is published in the Review and Herald that states, "Through the instrumentality of Bro. Frisbie, last Summer, I was led to see a beauty in what is termed present truth, especially the commandments of God. After being connected with the Free Will Baptists a number of years, I was led to cast my lot with the Sabbath-keepers in Caledonia; and I have never regretted that step. Last Sabbath we enjoyed the sweet, melting Spirit of the Lord. Our hearts were made glad; and we were enabled to "read our title clear to mansions in the skies."
January 25: James and Ellen White eat at the house of William and Eliza Hardy, a pioneer black Adventist family, in Michigan.
March 14: Great Controversy vision is given to Ellen White in Lovett’s Grove, Ohio.
November 16: Lewis Charles Sheafe is born in Baltimore, Maryland.
Ellen White instructs church members to disobey the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act that requires American citizens to deliver fleeing slaves to their masters.
May 13: Parkville, Michigan, church becomes first SDA church to be legally organized.
October 1: The name “Seventh-day Adventist” is chosen.
September 28: Meeting convenes in Battle Creek, Michigan, to organize SDA publishing work.
August 3: Ellen White is given a vision in Roosevelt, New York, about U.S. Civil War. She declares God is bringing judgment against America for "the high crime of slavery," and that God will punish the South for the sin of slavery and the North for so long suffering its overreaching and overbearing influence.
October 5-6: Michigan becomes first conference to be organized.
October: J.N. Andrews releases the monumental History of the Sabbath and First Day of the Week which included research about Sabbath-keeping in Ethiopia during the Middle Ages that Ellen White would use in The Great Controversy.
April: A group of forty-four “Seventh Day Adventists and others” from Linn County, Iowa, testified, “That our professions of Christianity and boasts of liberty, are but a mockery in the sight of the nations of the Earth and of the God of the Universe, so long as we delay practically to recognize the ‘Inalienable right of all men to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ ” The Linn County Adventists then “urged” Abraham Lincoln and Congress to immediately abolish “the great unnatural crime of slavery, the exhaustless inveterate source of our national ruin.”
May 20-23: 1st General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
May 21: The Seventh-day Adventist Church is officially organized and incorporated.
End Membership: 3,500
May 16: E.L. Barr dies.
May 18-May 21, 1864: 2nd General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
August 30: Adventists petition the United States government for non-combatant status during Civil War.
End Membership: 3,800