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Famous Blacks and Adventists

Compiled by Benjamin Baker

It’s amazing how many famous black people are, or have been, Seventh-day Adventists! The list of onetime Adventists includes a US president’s grandfather, America’s best authors, the world’s fastest person, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, the most influential civil rights leaders, the greatest rap groups of all time, the father of rock and roll and other Grammy award-winning musicians, and elite physicians. Their influence has spanned the globe and transformed our modern world. Here are more than one hundred famous blacks and their relationship to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Musicians

A Tribe Called Quest
A Tribe Called Quest

Q-Tip (Jonathan Davis) and Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor) met in a Seventh-day Adventist Church and attended the Linden Jamaica SDA School in Queens, New York City.

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Atlantic Starr
Atlantic Starr

David Lewis was raised a Seventh-day Adventist and remained one throughout his successful music career with Atlantic Starr. However, in 1995 he experienced a renewal of his faith, was baptized, and began a ministry with his wife, former model, Marian Jones.

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Justin Wilson
Justin Wilson

Wilson (right) was born and raised a Seventh-day Adventist and graduated from Oakwood University.

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A Tribe Called Quest
A Tribe Called Quest

Q-Tip (Jonathan Davis) and Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor) met in a Seventh-day Adventist Church and attended the Linden Jamaica SDA School in Queens, New York City.

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Actors and Producers 

Phillip Michael Thomas
Phillip Michael Thomas

Thomas studied theology at Oakwood University in 1967-1968.

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Clifton Davis
Clifton Davis

Davis earned theology degrees from Oakwood and Andrews University, and for many years pastored Adventist congregations.

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Devon Franklin
Devon Franklin

Franklin is a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist and an ordained minister. He is known for observing the seventh-day Sabbath and other Adventist principles despite the demands of Hollywood.

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Phillip Michael Thomas
Phillip Michael Thomas

Thomas studied theology at Oakwood University in 1967-1968.

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Athletes

Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt

Bolt was raised in a Seventh-day Adventist home, as a youth attending the Sherwood Content Seventh-day Adventist Church in Trelawny, Jamaica.

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Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson

When Earvin Johnson was around ten years old, his mother became a Seventh-day Adventist. The family followed for a while. Johnson’s sisters attended Oakwood University, and his mother is an Adventist to this day, almost fifty years since her conversion to the faith. In May 2016 the Oakwood University Church awarded Magic Johnson with the Humanitarian Award, and Johnson pledged $550,000 to the church and school.

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Regan Upshaw
Regan Upshaw

Upshaw was born and raised in a Seventh-day Adventist home. His father, Charles R. Upshaw, was the first African American vice president at Andrews University.

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Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt

Bolt was raised in a Seventh-day Adventist home, as a youth attending the Sherwood Content Seventh-day Adventist Church in Trelawny, Jamaica.

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Activists, Lawyers, and Politicians

Rosetta Douglass-Sprague
Rosetta Douglass-Sprague

Frederick Douglass’ oldest child and personal assistant for decades, Rosetta Douglass-Sprague, joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church around 1892, when she lived in Washington, D.C. She was a member of the First SDA Church until her death in 1906.

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Malcolm X
Malcolm X

X (1925-1965) was a Seventh-day Adventist from 1934-1937, when his mother converted to the faith in Lansing, Michigan. He said of the Adventists that he encountered that "they were the friendliest white people I had ever seen."

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Patrick Allen
Patrick Allen

Allen has been the Governor-General of Jamaica since 2009. He is an Adventist minister and has served as the president of Central Jamaica Conference and the West Indies Union of Seventh-day Adventists.

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Rosetta Douglass-Sprague
Rosetta Douglass-Sprague

Frederick Douglass’ oldest child and personal assistant for decades, Rosetta Douglass-Sprague, joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church around 1892, when she lived in Washington, D.C. She was a member of the First SDA Church until her death in 1906.

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Not Quite Adventist...

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Onyango Obama, Barack’s grandfather, was one of the earliest converts to Adventism in the Kendu Bay region of Kenya. Adventist missionaries began missionary work among the Luo people in 1906. Baptized into the faith at 9-years old, Onyango attended an Adventist boarding school established by missionaries. So deeply was Adventist implanted among the Obama family that about half of the family is still Adventist today, celebrating Barack Obama’s inauguration sans alcohol and unclean meat.

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Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth

In her long life, Truth was often around Adventists, even though she may never have actually joined the church. She was a Millerite, and eyewitnesses claimed that she was later baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church by Uriah Smith; a biography of her was published by the Review and Herald; one of her funeral services was held at the Dime Tabernacle in Battle Creek; and she is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery with other Seventh-day Adventist luminaries, including James and Ellen White.

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Meagan Good
Meagan Good

In 2012 Good married outspoken Seventh-day Adventist movie producer and lay minister DeVon Franklin. Since then she has frequently attended Adventist churches with him, giving her testimony.

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Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Onyango Obama, Barack’s grandfather, was one of the earliest converts to Adventism in the Kendu Bay region of Kenya. Adventist missionaries began missionary work among the Luo people in 1906. Baptized into the faith at 9-years old, Onyango attended an Adventist boarding school established by missionaries. So deeply was Adventist implanted among the Obama family that about half of the family is still Adventist today, celebrating Barack Obama’s inauguration sans alcohol and unclean meat.

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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