Ellen White and Black People
Ellen Gould White (1827-1915) was a cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church—a global community of more than 20 million as of late 2016—and an individual that Adventists hold operated in a prophetic capacity. During her lifetime, White most often communicated to the fledgling church and its members via the pen in some 100,000 extant pages, which the Ellen G. White Estate has made available at egwwritings.org. Covering a diverse range of subjects such as theology, health, psychology, education, history, and personal spirituality, White’s writings have been sold and distributed in the hundreds of millions, the White Estate asserting that she is “the most translated woman writer in the entire history of literature, and the most translated American author of either gender.” More than a century after her death White is as influential as ever: in 2014 the Smithsonian Magazine named her one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.”
The span of Ellen White’s eighty-seven years was critical for the fledgling republic that was the United States of America, and equally for African Americans, whose approximate population in those nine decades grew from two million in 1827 to ten million in 1915. This period saw the institution of slavery at its strongest and most engrained; a costly and ruinous war that jeopardized the existence of America; the extinction of slavery and the emancipation of millions of blacks; the volatile subsequent decades in which African Americans were variously assimilated into free society, systematically oppressed in new, yet familiar, ways, and sometimes re-enslaved; and the migration of large numbers of blacks to the North in the quest for a better life.
In the voice of Ellen White, the Seventh-day Adventist Church had a prophetic commentary on these monumental developments. As the very length of this compilation bears out, White was prolific in her writings on slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, segregation, Jim Crow, race relations, and the black American experience in general. In particular, she stressed Adventists’ responsibility to repair the egregious wrongs and injustices perpetrated on African Americans by engaging in systematic efforts in the South to educate, evangelize, and better their quality of life. Beyond this, White was cognizant of the progenitors of African Americans and their history. In her writings, she discusses Africans in the Bible at length, and remarks on African societies in the Middle Ages and those contemporaneous with her.
Throughout the span of her life, Ellen White maintained friendships with African Americans, kept correspondence with them, lodged at their houses, spoke at black churches and schools, and raised thousands of dollars for programs for blacks. Famously, her son and daughter-in-law, James Edson and Emma White, cofounded the Southern Missionary Society, an evangelistic group largely responsible for laying the foundation for the black work in the southern United States, where the majority of African Americans resided at the time. The black membership in the United States currently numbers approximately 300,000.
Below are books, articles, and videos that discuss Ellen White's relationship to blacks.
Black Seventh-day Adventists and the Influence of Ellen G. White, by Delbert W. Baker, in Perspectives (1996)
Ellen G. White's Influence on SDA Approaches to Race Relations, by Roy Graham
Ellen G. White? Racist or Champion of Equality, by Roy Branson (1970)
Ellen White's Racial Background, by James R. Nix (2005)
Ellen White and Social Justice Activism, Part 1, by Benjamin Baker
Ellen White and Social Justice Activism, Part 2, by Benjamin Baker
Ellen White on Reparations, by Benjamin Baker
Jubilee Hope - Ellen White and the Politics of Racial Justice, Part 1, by Douglas Morgan
Sinful Sentiments and Republican Purity: Ellen White and the Politics of Racial Justice, Part 2, by Douglas Morgan
Sellout to Segregation? Ellen White and the Politics of Racial Justice, Part 3, by Douglas Morgan
Tension between the Races, by Norman K. Miles (1987)
The Race War Question, by Delbert Baker (1986)
The Rescuer, by Benjamin Baker
"They lived near the bridge where we went over:" Ellen White and Blacks, Part 1, by Benjamin Baker
"Let the Slave Reply:" Ellen White and Blacks, Part 2, by Benjamin Baker
"To Be Depended Upon:" Ellen White and Blacks, Part 3, by Benjamin Baker
War, Slavery, and Race, by Eric Anderson, in Ellen Gould Harmon (2014)
Timeline of Black Adventist History
Compiled by Benjamin Baker
May 17: 3rd General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
May 23: General Conference Session resolves: “That a field is now opened in the South for labor among the colored people and should be entered upon according to our ability.”
December 25: Ellen White receives vision to establish a health institution.
End Membership: 4,000
May 16-17: 4th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
June 12: The Visions—Objections Answered by Uriah Smith is published.
September 5: Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan, opens for patients.
End Membership: 4,250
May 14-May 19: 5th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
End Membership: 4,320
May 12-May 18: 6th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
December 25: John West, believed to be the second black Seventh-day Adventist minister, dies in Peterboro, New York.
Beginning Membership: 4,320
End Membership: 4,475
May 18-24: 7th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
Beginning Membership: 4,475
End Membership: 4,900
March 15-20: 8th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
December 20: William Hawkins Green is born in Lewisburg, North Carolina.
T&O (1866-1870): $103,157
Beginning Membership: 4,900
End Membership: 5,440
February 7-February 12: 9th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
May 2: Elbert B. Lane, the first Adventist minister in the South, reports in the Review and Herald of holding meetings in a depot in Edgefield Junction, Tennessee, with "white people occupying one room, and the Colored the other." Black Baptist minister Harry Lowe embraces Adventism at the meetings.
December 29, 1871-January 3, 1872: 10th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
Beginning Membership: 5,440
End Membership: 4,550
December 29, 1872-January 3, 1873: 10th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
Beginning Membership: 4,550
End Membership: 4,901
March 11-March 14: 11th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
November 14-November 16: 12th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
Beginning Membership: 4,901
End Membership: 5,875
March 4: Anna Knight is born to Newton and Georgeanne Knight in Jones County, Mississippi.
June 4: First issue of Signs of the Times, edited by James White, is published in Oakland, California.
August 10-August 15: 13th General Conference Session is held in Battle Creek, Michigan.
April 1: Silas Osborn reports in the Review and Herald of four black converts from meetings he held in Powder Mills, Kentucky.
August 15-August 18: 14th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
T&O (71-75): $147,690
Beginning Membership: N/A
End Membership: 8,042
March 31-April 6: 1st Special General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
June 10: Lottie Cornella Isbell Blake is born.
September 19-September 24: 15th General Conference Session, Lansing, Michigan.
November 12 and 13: 2nd Special General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
Beginning Membership: 8,042
End Membership: 10,044
February 22: A report appears in the Review and Herald from Mrs. H.M. Van Slyke about a "colored school" in Ray County, Missouri, in which she taught black orphans to read the Bible.
May 24: William F. Minisee dies in Solon, Kent County, Michigan.
March 7: James Kemuel Humphrey is born.
September 20-September 28: 16th General Conference Session, Lansing, Michigan.
September 22: Lucille Lewis (later Byard) is born.
Beginning Membership: 10,044
End Membership: 11,608
January 3: C.O. Taylor reports in the Review and Herald that lawyer and planter W.F. Killen of Houston County, Georgia, is converted to the Adventist faith, along with his family. Killen states that "I have no trouble in getting my laborers (colored people) to keep it [the Sabbath]."
March 1-March 4: 3rd Special General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
March 14: C.O. Taylor reports in the Review and Herald that a black minister in Worth County, Georgia, is keeping the Sabbath.
August: Charles Kinny/Kinney is baptized in Reno, Nevada, during a tent meeting conducted by J.N. Loughborough and guest speaker Ellen White.
October 4-October 16: 17th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
Beginning Membership: 11,608
End Membership: 13,077
July 6: James Gershom (J.G.) Dasent is born.
November 7-December 1: 18th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.
Beginning Membership: 13,077
End Membership: 14,141