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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.

Books

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All Videos

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Timeline of Black Adventist History

1865-1899

Compiled by Benjamin Baker 

1865  

 

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. 

 

Churches: 140

 

T&O: $12,000

 

End Membership: 4,000

 

 

1866  

 

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.

 

Churches: 150

 

End Membership: 4,250

 

 

 

1867              

 

May 14-May 19: 5th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.

 

Churches: 160

 

End Membership: 4,320

 

 

 

1868  

 

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.

 

Churches: 159

 

Beginning Membership: 4,320

 

End Membership: 4,475

 

 

 

1869

 

May 18-24: 7th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.

 

Churches: 167

 

Beginning Membership: 4,475

 

End Membership: 4,900

 

 

 

1870

 

March 15-20: 8th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.

 

December 20: William Hawkins Green is born in Lewisburg, North Carolina.

 

Churches: 179

 

T&O: $25,375

 

T&O (1866-1870): $103,157

 

Beginning Membership: 4,900

 

End Membership: 5,440

 

 

 

1871

 

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.

 

Churches: 185

 

Beginning Membership: 5,440

 

End Membership: 4,550

 

 

 

1872  

 

December 29, 1872-January 3, 1873: 10th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.

 

Churches: 204

 

Beginning Membership: 4,550

 

End Membership: 4,901

 

 

 

1873  

 

March 11-March 14: 11th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.

 

November 14-November 16: 12th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.

 

Churches: 239

 

Beginning Membership: 4,901

 

End Membership: 5,875

 

 

 

1874

 

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.

 

 

 

1875              

 

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.

 

Churches: 339

 

T&O: $33,156

 

T&O (71-75):  $147,690

 

Beginning Membership: N/A

 

End Membership: 8,042

 

 

 

1876  

 

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.

 

Churches: 398

 

Beginning Membership: 8,042

 

End Membership: 10,044

 

 

 

1877  

 

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.

 

Churches: 478

 

Beginning Membership: 10,044

 

End Membership: 11,608

 

 

 

1878

 

 

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.

 

Churches: 549

 

Beginning Membership: 11,608

 

End Membership: 13,077

 

 

 

1879  

 

July 6: James Gershom (J.G.) Dasent is born.

 

November 7-December 1: 18th General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan.

 

Churches: 599

 

Beginning Membership: 13,077

 

End Membership: 14,141