Archive for the ‘Frederick Douglass’ Tag

Feast of Julia Williams Garnet, Henry Highland Garnet, Sarah J. Smith Tompkins Garnet, Susan Maria Smith McKinney Steward, and Theophilus Gould Steward (February 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  A Partial Family Tree

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor



African-American Abolitionist and Educator

first wife of


African-American Presbyterian Minister and Abolitionist

second husband of


African-American Suffragette and Educator

sister of


African-American Physician

second wife of


U.S. African Methodist Episcopal Minister, U.S. Army Chaplain, and Professor


The nation has begun its exodus from worse than Egyptian bondage; and I beseech you that say to the people, “that they go forward.”  With the assurance of God’s favor in all things done in obedience to his righteous will, and guided by day and night by the pillars of cloud and fire, let us not pause until we have reached the other and safe side of the stormy and crimson sea.  Let freemen and patriots mete out complete and equal justice to all men, and thus prove to mankind the superiority of our Democratic, Republican government.

–Henry Highland Garnet, addressing the United States House of Representatives, February 12, 1865; quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 604


This post began with one name, that of Henry Highland Garnet, which I found in A Year with American Saints (2006).  As I took notes, however, I added two wives, a sister-in-law, and her second husband to the post.  I have, after all, established emphasizing relationships and influences as a goal of this project, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

Julia Williams came from a free African-American family.  She, born in Charleston, South Carolina, on July 1, 1811, moved with her family to Boston, Massachusetts, when she was a child.  At the age of 21 years, Williams began to study at Prudence Crandall‘s Female Boarding School (for African Americans), which opened in 1831.  After hostility in Canterbury, New Hampshire, forced the school to close, Williams continued her studies at Noyes Academy, Canaan, New Hampshire (extant 1835).  There she met Henry Highland Garnet.

Henry Highland Garnet, born a slave, became an abolitionist.  He, born in New Market, Maryland, on December 23, 1815, fled with his family in 1824, first to Delaware, then to Pennsylvania.  The family had to keep moving, to evade slave-catchers.  Eventually, Garnet wound up in New York City, where, from 1826 to 1833, he studied at the African Free School then at Phoenix High School for Colored Youth.  Our saint helped to found the abolitionist Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association in 1835.  He and Julia Williams were students at Noyes Academy, Canaan, New Hampshire, in 1835.  Local racists forced the school to close then destroyed the building.  Next, they founded a whites-only school.

Williams and Garnet studied at the Oneida Institute (1827-1843), Whitesboro, New York.  Garnet, who graduated in 1839, became a teacher in Troy, New York.  He also began to study theology.  Williams, having joined the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society in the 1830s, was a delegate to the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, New York City, in 1837.  Garnet suffered a severe sports-related injury in 1840; he lost one leg, amputated at the hip.  He and Williams married in 1841.  The couple had three children.  Only one child, a daughter, survived to adulthood.

Garnet, the first African-American graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, became a Presbyterian minister.  He served at Liberty Street Presbyterian Church, Troy, New York, from 1842 to 1848.  He had already become simultaneously revolutionary and conservative, by abolitionist standards.  Our saint had, in 1840, helped to found the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (AFASS), which broke away from the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS).  The AASS, with William Lloyd Garrison as a prominent member, opened leadership positions to women and made the connection between the rights of slaves and the rights of women.  The AFASS, however, focused narrowly on slavery and reserved all leadership positions for men.  Yet Garnet, an abolitionist journalist since 1842, proved too radical for William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass in one way in 1843.  That year, addressing the National Negro Convention, Buffalon, New York, Garnet called for a slave insurrection:

Brethren, arise, arise!  Strike for your lives and liberties.  Now is the day and the hour.  Let every slave throughout the land do this, and the days of slavery are numbered.  You cannot be more oppressed than you have been–you cannot suffer greater cruelties than you have already.  Rather die freemen than live to be slaves.

Garrison and Douglass persuaded Garnet to to moderate his position.

Garnet’s activism continued.  By 1849, he openly supported African-American immigration to Mexico, Liberia, or the West Indies.  This position led him to found the African Civilization Society in 1858.  He, associated with the free produce movement, which favored an economic boycott of slavery, traveled and lectured in the British Isles in 1850-1852.  The Garnets were missionaries of The Church of Scotland to Jamaica in 1852-1855; Julia led a female industrial school there.  Henry’s health required him to leave Jamaica after three years.  The couple returned to the United States.  Henry worked with Frederick Douglass to recruit African-American soldiers during the Civil War.  Garnet, pastor of Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C., from 1864 to 1866, addressed the U.S. House of Representatives on February 12, 1865, after it passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution.  He became the President of Avery College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (extant 1849-1873), in 1868.  Garnet also served as pastor of Shiloh Presbyterian Church, New York City, and favored Cuban independence from Spain.

Julia, who worked with former slaves in Washington, D.C., after the Civil War, died on January 7, 1870.  She was 58 years old.

Henry remarried, to Sarah J. Smith Tompkins, in 1879.

Sarah J. Smith and her sister, Susan Maria Smith, made history.  Their parents were prosperous farmers, Sylvanus Smith and Ann Eliza Springsteel, of Brooklyn, New York.  Sarah debuted on July 31, 1831.  Susan followed in March 1847.  Sarah’s first husband was Samuel Tompkins, who died in 1852.  The couple had two children, who died young.

Sarah J. Smith Tompkins became an educator.  She taught at the African Free School before becoming the first female, African-American principal in New York City; she led Grammar School Number 4, starting on April 30, 1863.

Susan, a musician and a music educator in the District of Columbia, pursued a career in medicine after one of her brothers died of cholera during an outbreak in Brooklyn.  She studied at the New York Medical College for Women in 1867-1869, and graduated as the valedictorian.  She became the first African-American female physician in the State of New York and the third in the United States.  Our saint practiced medicine in Brooklyn from 1870 to 1895, cofounded the Brooklyn Women’s Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary, and practiced medicine at the Brooklyn Home for Aged Colored People.  In 1871, Susan married the Reverend William G. McKinney (d. 1894), a Methodist minister.

Sarah, owner of a seamstress shop in Brooklyn from 1883 to 1911, was also a suffragette.  She founded the Equal Suffrage League in Brooklyn in the late 1880s.  Starting in 1896, she served as the Superintendent of the National Association of Colored Women.

Henry Highland Garnet, briefly the U.S. Minister to Liberia, received his appointment in late 1881.  He, aged 58 years, died in Monrovia, on February 13, 1882.

Theophilus Gould Steward was a minister, an academic, and an activist.  He, from free African-American stock, was a child of James Steward and Rebecca Gould.  Our saint, born in Gouldtown, New Jersey, on April 17, 1843, became a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1863.  He planted churches in Georgia and South Carolina after the Civil War.  Our saint, from 1868 a pastor in Macon, Georgia, presided over the construction of a new edifice after the suspicious burning of the first one.  He, a graduate of the Episcopal Divinity School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was active in Haiti, and the eastern United States from 1872 to 1891.  Our saint, recipient of a Doctor of Divinity degree from Wilberforce University, Wilberforce, Ohio, in 1881, joined the United States Army as a chaplain in 1891.  He served in the 25th U.S. Colored Cavalry until 1907.  Steward spent time in the U.S. West, in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, and in the Philippines after that war.  His first wife, Elizabeth Gladden, died ini 1893.  The couple had eight children, from 1872 to 1883.

Susan Maria Smith McKinney married Theophilus Gould Steward in 1896.  They went to work at Wilberforce University in 1907.  Theophilus was a professor of French, history, and logic.  Susan was a physician.  In 1911, she and her sister, Sarah, attended the Universal Race Congress, New York City.  Susan presented a paper, “Colored American Women.”

Sarah J. Smith Tompkins Garnet, aged 80 years, died on September 17, 1911.

Susan Maria Smith McKinney Steward, aged 71 years, died on March 17, 1918.

Theophilus Gould Steward, a cofounder (with Alexander Crummell) of the American Negro Academy (1897-1928), died on January 11, 1924.  He was 80 years old.

The United States of America is better than it would have been otherwise because these five saints made their contributions to society.








Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness and care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may

do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight;

through Jesus Christ, our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns

with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 736


Feast of Sojourner Truth (November 26)   2 comments

Above:  Sojourner Truth

Image in the Public Domain



U.S. Abolitionist, Mystic, and Feminist


If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

–Sojourner Truth, 1851


Sojourner Truth comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, mainly via The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.  She also comes to my Ecumenical Calendar via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), and G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).  Truth’s Lutheran feast day, shared with Harriet Tubman, is March 10.  The feast day situation in The Episcopal Church is complicated, though.

The Episcopal calendar of saints used to be a simple matter.  From 1963 or so to 2009, the then-current edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts defined the church calendar.  From 1988 to 2006, the triennial General Convention approved the new edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, with “new” saints added.  The General Convention of 2009 left Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006 (published in 2007) unaltered yet authorized a greatly expanded side calendar, the first guide to which which was Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010).  The General Convention of 2012 left Holy Women, Holy Men (2010) alone, but the General Convention of 2015 authorized a successor, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016).  The General Convention of 2018 authorized the expanded Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, which, as of the date I write this post, is available only as a PDF document.

Truth, therefore, has two feast days in The Episcopal Church.  Her feast day from Holy Women, Holy Men (2010) and A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016) is July 20.  She shares that feast day with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, and Harriet Tubman.  However, her feast day (by herself) in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 is November 26.

Isabella Baumfree, born in Rifton, New York, in 1797, was a slave.  She, a daughter of James and Elizabeth Baumfree, grew up speaking Dutch, not English.  After our saint learned English, she spoke it with a Dutch accent.  Young Isabella suffered greatly.  She, sold more than once, never knew her siblings; slavery broke her family apart.  She endured beatings, the scars of which her body bore throughout her long life.  When Isabella was 13 years old, her master mated her with Thomas, an older slave.  She and Thomas had five children.  As the government of New York prepared to free all the remaining slaves in that state on July 4, 1827, Isabella’s master reneged on promises to free her prior to that date.  In 1826 she liberated herself and her youngest child, Sophia.

Isabella spent 1826-1843 in New York City and the immediate area.  Elizabeth Baumfree had taught her daughter to trust in God.  Isabella became a Christian under the influence of her new employers (1826-1829), Isaac and Maria Van Wagener, Quakers.  Our saint, their housekeeper, adopted their surname.  In 1828 she successfully sued for the freedom of her son Peter, sold illegally into slavery in Alabama.  He joined her in New York and became Peter Van Wagener.  About that time, Isabella joined a Methodist congregation.

Isabella, who claimed to have conversations with God, was not, unfortunately, the shrewdest of mystics at all times.  From 1829 to 1832 she was housekeeper to Elijah Pierson (1786-1834), a dodgy evangelist who billed himself as “Elijah the Tishbite.”  He was also a friend of her next employer, Robert Matthews (1788-circa 1841), who billed himself as “Matthias the Prophet,” operated a commune from 1832 to 1835, and also turned out to be untrustworthy.

Our saint’s life changed in 1843.  Peter, a crewman aboard a whaling vessel, died.  Isabella, discerning a call from God to become an itinerant evangelist and political activist, renamed herself Sojourner Truth.  She was a feminist, a suffragette, a pacifist, an educator (despite being illiterate), a pacifist, and an advocate of temperance.  Truth also worked with Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison.  The latter man published her dictated autobiography, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, in 1847.

Truth, based at Northampton, Massachusetts, from 1844 to 1857, was usually a Methodist.  She had an association with the Millerites, however.  After William Miller’s predictions of 1843-1844 proved false, she chose to remain separate from that movement, which spawned the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Truth, unlike other abolitionists, understood the principle summarized in intersectionality, a word that did not exist during her lifetime.  Her life played out at the intersection of race, slavery, and gender.  Perhaps Truth’s best, most succinct summary of why freedom for slaves and the equality of men and women must go hand-in-hand was the “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, which she delivered at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1851.

Truth, who moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, where some of her daughters resided, in 1857, supported the U.S. military during the Civil War and worked for justice for former slaves after that conflict.  She helped to recruit African-American soldiers during the war.  She also met with President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 then remained in the District of Columbia, to minister to slaves in refugee camps.  Then Truth spent seven years unsuccessfully lobbying for federal land grants for former slaves.

Truth remained a radical in her final years.  In 1872 she tried to vote in the presidential election;  she would have voted for President Ulysses Grant, with whom she had met.

Our saint, aged about 86 years, died in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 26, 1883.  The truths for which she worked and advocated have never died, though.








Almighty God, who has made the Church to be one body with many members and many gifts:

we thank you for the witness of your daughter, Sojourner Truth,

and for her courage to preach the truth of your liberating love in the face of injustice.

Grant that we, like her, may use our time, talents, and energy to proclaim the coming of your Kingdom,

which is good news to the poor, and in which all the oppressed shall be made free;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 5:15-20

Psalm 126

Mark 4:21-29

Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018


Feast of Elijah P. Lovejoy, Owen Lovejoy, and William Wells Brown (November 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  Am I Not a Man and a Brother?

Image in the Public Domain



U.S. Journalist, Abolitionist, Presbyterian Minister, and Martyr, 1837

brother of


U.S. Abolitionist, Lawmaker, and Congregationalist Minister



African-American Abolitionist, Novelist, Historian, and Physician


If the evil authorities refuse to protect me, I will look to God; and if I die, I have determined to make my grave in Alton.

–Elijah P. Lovejoy, November 3, 1837; quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 718


Shout it from the rooftops!

–Congressman Owen Lovejoy, 1859, in response to the allegation of being a “Negro stealer”



Thirteen years ago, I came to your door, a weary fugitive from chain and tripes.  I was hungry, and you fed me.  Naked was I, and you clothed me.  Even a name by which to be known among men, slavery had denied me.  You bestowed upon me your own.  Base indeed, should I be, if I ever forget what I owe to you, or do anything to disgrace that honored name!

As a slight testimony of my gratitude  to my earliest benefactor, I take the liberty to inscribe to you this little narrative of the sufferings from which I was fleeing when you had compassion upon me.  In the multitude that you have succored, it is very possible that you may not remember me; but until I forget God and myself, I can never forget you.

Your faithful friend,

William Wells Brown

Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave (1848), Second Edition


Elijah P. Lovejoy comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).  Owen Lovejoy and William Wells Brown come to my Ecumenical Calendar via personal connections to Elijah P. Lovejoy.

Elijah and Owen Lovejoy were sons of farmers Daniel Lovejoy (also a Congregationalist minister) and Elizabeth Pattee (Lovejoy), of Albion, Maine.

Elijah, born on November 9, 1802, received his name in honor of Elijah Parish (November 7, 1762-October 15, 1825), a Congregationalist minister, an abolitionist, an active member of the Federalist Party, and a friend of Daniel Lovejoy.  Elijah graduated from Waterville College, Waterville, Maine, with honors, in 1826.  He, as a student, had received financial support from Benjamin Tappan (Jr.) and taught in the college’s preparatory school.

Owen, born on January 6, 1811, left the farm at the age of 18 years and matriculated at Bowdoin College.  He studied yet never practiced law.  Owen, a member of the Class of 1832, became a Congregationalist minister instead.

Elijah decided to serve God in the West–Illinois, to be precise–yet needed money first.  He attempted to find work in Boston, Massachusetts, before moving along to New York, New York.  There, in 1827, he sold subscriptions to the Saturday Evening Gazette door-to-door for a few weeks.  During this time of struggles our saint wrote to Jeremiah Chaplin, the President of Waterville, College.  Chaplin sent enough money for Elijah to go westward.

Elijah lived and worked in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1827 to 1836.  At first he taught in schools and submitted poems to newspapers.  Then our saint became a parter in the St. Louis Times, which favored the National Republican Party, a predecessor of the Whig Party.  Elijah, as a journalist, met community leaders active in the American Colonization Society.  Our saint, after a period of spiritual struggle, converted to Presbyterianism in 1832.  He, as a partner in the St. Louis Times, hired a slave, later known as William Wells Brown.

William, born a slave near Lexington, Kentucky, circa 1814, was a mulatto.  His master and father was George W. Higgins.  Our saint’s mother was Elizabeth, a slave.  Higgins sold Elizabeth and William several time.  William grew up mostly in St. Louis, where he worked primarily on river boats.  He and his mother escaped to Illinois in 1833, but slave hunter captured them.  Our saint escaped successfully to Ohio the following year, though.  In Ohio a Quaker named Wells Brown provided clothing, food, and money, and helped William move along.

Also in 1834, the renamed William Wells Brown married Elizabeth Schooner.  The couple had two daughters who lived to adulthood–Clarissa and Josephine.  The latter (1839-1874) wrote her father’s biography in 1856.  The couple separated in 1847, and Elizabeth died in 1851.

William lived in Buffalo, New York, from 1836 to 1845.  There he worked on a steamboat on Lake Eve and helped many slaves escape to Canada.  He also became active in the abolitionist and temperance movements in Buffalo.

Elijah, who studied at Princeton Theological Seminary, starting in 1832, became an ordained minister the following year.  In 1833 he published the first issue of the St. Louis Observer, a Presbyterian newspaper.  He wrote critically of slavery, tobacco, liquor, and Roman Catholicism.  Our saint favored gradual emancipation.  He also refused demands backed up by threats of mob violence–to cease writing about slavery.

In 1836 Francis McIntosh, a free African American taken into police custody unjustly, attacked the officers, wounding one and killing the other.  He subsequently died at the hands of a lynch mob.  A local judge blamed only Elijah, whom he accused of stirring up discontent.  Our saint knew he had to leave St. Louis.  Before he departed, however, a mob destroyed his printing press while authorities watched.  Elijah, his wife Celia Ann French (married in 1835), and family left for Alton, Illinois.

The Alton Observer debuted in 1836.  Elijah continued to write against slavery, despite threats of mob violence and the lack of police protection.  In late October 1837 he presided over the congress of the Illinois Anti-Slavery Society at his congregation, Upper Alton Presbyterian Church.

Elijah became a martyr on November 7, 1837.  He and some supporters defended themselves against a mob that broke into the warehouse where he had hidden his new printing press.  Our saint died, and the mob threw the printing press into the Mississippi River.  His wife and two children had to go on without him.  There was no funeral, and an unmarked grave held his corpse, despite national attention.  Also, no court convicted anyone for the murder.  John Brown, however, dedicated his life to the destruction of slavery shortly thereafter.

Owen, who witnessed his brother’s murder, took up the mantle.  He and brother Joseph wrote Memoir of Elijah P. Lovejoy (1838).  Owen, pastor of the Congregational Church, Princeton, Illinois (1838-1856), founded congregations in conjunction with the American Missionary Association and became a conductor of the Underground Railroad.  He, a friend of Abraham Lincoln, served in the Illinois State Legislature (1855-1857) then the U.S. House of Representatives (1857-1864).

Owen died in Brooklyn, New York, on March 25, 1864.

William Wells Brown continued to work against slavery.  He, Clarissa, and Josephine lived in England from 1849 to 1854.  He traveled, lecturing on behalf of the abolitionist cause.  In 1854, the Richardsons, who had purchased the freedom of Frederick Douglass, did the same for Brown.  Our saint and his daughter moved to Boston, Massachusetts, that year.  While in England, he had written and published Clotel; or, the President’s Daughter (1853), a novel based on the lives of slave children of Thomas JeffersonClotel was the first novel by an African American.

Brown, back in the United States, persisted in his abolitionist activism.  He, a renowned orator and the first published African-American playwright (for The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom, 1858), sided with William Lloyd Garrison in the dispute that divided the U.S. abolitionist movement.  Brown, like Garrison, included women in the definition of people who deserved legal equality.  Our saint became more radical after 1854; he advocated for emigration to Haiti, laid aside his opposition to violence, and helped to recruit African-American soldiers for the U.S. Army during the Civil War.

Brown, who married Anna Elizabeth Gray in 1860, added more items to his list of accomplishments.  He became a historian, writing the following volumes:

  1. The Black Man:  His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements (1863);
  2. The Negro in the American Rebellion (1867), perhaps the first work about African American during the U.S. War for Independence; and
  3. The Rising Son; or, the Antecedents and Advancements of the Colored Race (1873).

Furthermore, Brown became a doctor.

Brown died in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on November 6, 1884.

Elijah P. Lovejoy, Owen Lovejoy, and William Wells Brown loved God, followed Christ, and left their country and world better than they found them.








O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom

the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60


Feast of James W. C. Pennington (October 21)   1 comment

Above:  James William Charles Pennington

Image in the Public Domain



African-American Congregationalist and Presbyterian Minister, Educator, and Abolitionist

Born James Pembroke

James W. C. Pennington comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (New York:  Church Publishing, 2006), the most recent addition to my library.

James Pembroke was a slave in Maryland.  Initially his father (Brazil Pembroke) and mother belonged to different masters.  Then the family became the property of just one of the two masters, until another slave owner purchased our saint’s brother.  Young James, trained as a stone mason then as a blacksmith, received many beatings as he grew up.  At the age of 20 years our saint escaped to freedom in Pennsylvania.

Quakers–namely William Wright–helped our saint for six months in Pennsylvania.  Wright took the fugitive slave into his home.  Quakers educated our saint, influenced him to convert to Christianity, and helped him to move farther north, first to the Brooklyn-Long Island area, via the Underground Railroad.

Our saint, who assumed the name “James William Charles Pennington,” taught school on Long Island before moving to New Haven, Connecticut.   He worked toward becoming a minister while auditing courses at Yale College, which, due to a racist admission policy, never admitted him as a student.  Pennington, ordained a minister, accepted a call in 1838; he became the pastor of a Congregational church in New Town, on Long Island.  That year he also presided at the wedding ceremony of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray.

From 1840 to 1848 Pennington served as the pastor of the Talcott Street Congregational Church, Hartford, Connecticut.  It was a congregation of African Americans, most of whom were active in the community.  Our saint opened a parochial school, for local public schools did not admit African Americans.  Pennington, active in efforts to help the slaves aboard the Amistad, also worked against racism domestically.  He advocated for opportunities for African Americans to improve their economic opportunities.  Our saint also spoke out for the right of African-American men to vote in Connecticut.  Furthermore, he condemned racism within the abolitionist movement, to which he belonged.  That criticism changed the minds of some white people for, starting, in the 1840s, Pennington received and accepted invitations to preach in white churches.  Our saint also wrote the Textbook of the Origin and History, Etc., Etc. of the Colored People (1841), which countered racist claims and justifications for chattel slavery.  The friend of William Lloyd Garrison served as the President of the Connecticut Anti-Slavery Convention (1840f) and as a delegate to the global anti-slavery convention in 1843.  Our saint, who wrote for abolitionist newspapers and edited and published two such newspapers, also advocated for moral character and conduct, especially as part of the temperance movement.

Penningon continued to serve God and work for social improvement during his final years.  He, pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church, New York, New York (1848-1856), returned to Hartford (1856-1857) before spending years as a traveling minister.  The Civil War compelled him to abandon his pacifism and recruit African-American soldiers for the United States Army.  After the Civil War our saint ministered among former slaves in the Presbytery of Florida.  He, aged about 63 years, died in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 20, 1870.

Pennington spent most of his life serving God, challenging social injustice, and attempting (with some success) to change the minds of racists.  The main obstacle with which he had to contend was the truth of the punchline from an anachronistic joke about the number of psychiatrists necessary to change a light bulb:  only one person is necessary, but the light bulb must want to change.  Those who did not desire to abandon their racism remained entrenched in it.  Pennington, however, presented the counter-argument effectively.









Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant James William Charles Pennington,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-26

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60


Feast of William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart (December 12)   10 comments


Above:  The Old Slave Market, Louisville, Georgia, 1934

Image Source = Library of Congress

Call Number = HABS GA,82-LOUVI,1-



Abolitionist and Feminist



Abolitionist, Feminist, and Educator


The General Convention of The Episcopal Church added this commemoration to the calendar of saints, listing these two saints as “prophetic witnesses.”

William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart were daring and prophetic figures who challenged firmly entrenched prejudices and societal sins.  They were radical figures in their day.

Their legacies challenge us to recognize and correct institutionalized and widely accepted societal sins and evils.



Above:  William Lloyd Garrison

Image in the Public Domain

William Lloyd Garrison affirmed human equality before God, whether one be male or female, of one racial or ethnicity or another, or enslaved or free.  One tool he used to influence society was the printing press.  Our saint took a circuitous route to that vocation, however.  Garrison, born on December 12, 1805, at Newburyport, Massachusetts, was a son of parents originally from New Brunswick.  Ahijah Garrison, his father, was a drunk and a ship captain who abandoned the family in 1808.  Garrison grew up impoverished and under the spiritual tutelage of his devout mother, Frances Maria Lloyd (Garrison).  Our saint, as a young man, was an apprentice in several trades:  making shoes, building cabinets, and finally, in 1818, newspaper writing and editing.  From 1818 to 1826 Garrison, starting at the tender age of 12 years, was an apprentice to Ephraim A. Allen, proprietor of the Newburyport Herald.  The young Garrison even wrote for the newspaper anonymously and avoided any suspicion that he was the author.

Garrison’s career as an activist newspaperman had a rocky start.  In 1826 he began to publish the Free Press at Newburyport; the radical (by the standards of the town) publication failed.  Next, in Boston, our saint worked as a printer before become the editor of the National Philanthropist, dedicated to complete abstinence from alcohol.  In 1828 he founded the Journal of the Times at Bennington, Vermont, to promote the re-election campaign of President John Quincy Adams.  The newspaper met the same fate the Adams campaign did.

Thus it came to pass that Garrison left for Baltimore, Maryland, in 1829.  There he and Benjamin Lundy edited the Genius of Universal Emancipation, a monthly publication.  Lundy favored the gradual emancipation of slaves, followed by colonization.  Garrison agreed with him for a time, but changed his mind.  Our saint came to support the immediate emancipation of slaves by peaceful means and the granting of equal rights to them in the United States.  Garrison used the printing press to name evil.  For his trouble he went to jail in 1830 for libeling the captain of a slave ship, or so a court of law concluded.  Garrison spent seven weeks in prison before Arthur Tappan, a merchant and philanthropist from New York City, paid the $50 fine (worth $1330 in 2016) and court costs.  Also in 1830, Garrison and Lundy arrived at an understanding and parted ways amicably.  The newspaper closed.

The Liberator was an influential newspaper  The publication, based in Boston, debuted on January 1, 1831.  The justly famous statement on the front page read:

To the Public

In the month of August, I issued proposals for publishing “THE LIBERATOR” in Washington city; but the enterprise, though hailed in different sections of the country, was palsied by public indifference. Since that time, the removal of the Genius of Universal Emancipation [Benjamin Lundy’s anti-slavery newspaper] to the Seat of Government has rendered less imperious the establishment of a similar periodical in that quarter.

During my recent tour for the purpose of exciting the minds of the people by a series of discourses on the subject of slavery, every place that I visited gave fresh evidence of the fact, that a greater revolution in public sentiment was to be effected in the free states — and particularly in New-England –– than at the south. I found contempt more bitter, opposition more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice more stubborn, and apathy more frozen, than among slave owners themselves. Of course, there were individual exceptions to the contrary. This state of things afflicted, but did not dishearten me. I determined, at every hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of Bunker Hill and in the birth place of liberty. That standard is now unfurled; and long may it float, unhurt by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe — yea, till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free! Let southern oppressors tremble — let their secret abettors tremble — let their northern apologists tremble — let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.

I deem the publication of my original Prospectus unnecessary, as it has obtained a wide circulation. The principles therein inculcated will be steadily pursued in this paper, excepting that I shall not array myself as the political partisan of any man. In defending the great cause of human rights, I wish to derive the assistance of all religions and of all parties.

Assenting to the “self-evident truth” maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights — among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park-street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My consicence in now satisfied.

I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective, and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question my influence, — humble as it is, — is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years — not perniciously, but beneficially — not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard “the fear of man which bringeth a snare,” and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power. And here I close with this fresh dedication:

Oppression! I have seen thee, face to face,
And met thy cruel eye and cloudy brow;
But thy soul-withering glance I fear not now —
For dread to prouder feelings doth give place
Of deep abhorrence! Scorning the disgrace
Of slavish knees that at thy footstool bow,
I also kneel — but with far other vow
Do hail thee and thy hord of hirelings base: —
I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,
Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand,
Thy brutalising sway — till Afric’s chains
Are burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land, —
Trampling Oppression and his iron rod:
Such is the vow I take — SO HELP ME GOD!

In the pages of The Liberator Garrison condemned slavery, tobacco, alcohol, capital punishment, war, freemasonry, and imprisonment for debt.  The newspaper was controversial nationwide.  The State of Georgia issued a warrant for Garrison’s arrest and posted a large cash prize for his capture.  And, in 1835, a mob nearly killed our saint in Boston.  The police had to place him in protective custody.

Garrison’s activism extended to other issues.  He also argued for free trade the equality of men and women.  His proposal that antislavery groups treat men and women equally divided that movement.  Garrison also supported voting rights for women before, during, and after the Civil War.  And, in 1869, he became the President of the Free Trade League.

Garrison, a Unitarian, thought that Christian institutions should work for social justice, such as the abolition of slavery.  Toward that end he worked with Congregationalists and Unitarians.  Nevertheless, he became disenchanted with many Christian institutions, due to their support for slavery or the colonization movement.  His disappointment was justified.

Garrison, the abolitionist who perhaps more than any other abolitionist struggled for human equality across the board, wrote the declaration of principles for the new American Anti-Slavery Society (1833-1870).  He also, citing the enshrinement of slavery in the Constitution of the United States, burned a copy of that document on July 4, 1854, calling the Constitution a “covenant with death.”  (Frederick Douglass, a former slaver, disagreed with Garrison on this point.  A former slave was less radical than an idealistic white man.)  Garrison, a pacifist, also struggled with the questions of war and violence in general.  He came to accept the Civil War as necessary to end race-based slavery in the United States and approved of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and the Thirteenth Amendment (1865).  The work of abolition done, Garrison closed The Liberator at the end of 1865.

Garrison married Helen Eliza Benson (1811-1876) on September 4, 1834.  The couple had seven children, including William Lloyd Garrison (Jr.) (1838-1909), like his father, a champion of women’s suffrage and free trade.  The younger Garrison also advocated for the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), which Congress did not repeal until 1943, due to the politics of World War II.

Our saint died at New York, New York, on May 24, 1879.  He was 73 years old.



Above:  Maria Stewart

Image in the Public Domain

Maria Stewart, born to the Millers, free blacks, at Hartford, Connecticut, in 1803, advocated for the rights of women and African Americans.  She, orphaned at the age of five years, grew up in the home of a white minister.  She also served as an indentured servant for a few years, until the age of fifteen years.  Maria Miller also taught herself to read.  For three years (1826-1829) our saint was the wife of James W. Stewart, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a shipping outfitter.  After he died, the white executors of his will seized the widow’s inheritance.

Our saint became a public speaker, advocating for the rights of slaves, women, and free blacks, as well as speaking to both men and women at a time when that was not socially acceptable.  Stewart called for slaves to rise up against their masters and for free blacks to resist segregation.  She also cited her faith and the Bible as justifications for her actions.  Our saint, who had converted to Christianity in 1830 and made a public profession of faith the following year, had essays published in The Liberator.  Fortunately, Garrison also violated taboos, such as seeking material from women and African Americans for his newspaper.

Stewart spent many years as an educator.  In 1835 she moved to New York City, where she began to teach.  Eventually she transferred to Brooklyn and became the assistant principal of the Williamsburg School there.   Our saint moved to Baltimore, Maryland, in 1852/1853, to teach privately.  Finally, in 1861, she relocated to Washington, D.C.  She taught there for nine years.  Furthermore, Stewart began to teach Sabbath School for the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany (in the mornings) and the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation (in the afternoons).

Stewart’s final professional position was Matron of the Freedmen’s Hospital, Washington, D.C.  She worked in that capacity from 1870 until her death, nine years later.  On the side our saint started a Sabbath School near the hospital in 1871.

Stewart died at Washington, D.C., on December 17, 1879.  She was 76 years old.


The lives of William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart challenge we who look back upon them to recognize the image of God in others–especially the socially marginalized–and to flout social conventions for the sake of the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings.





God, in whose service alone is perfect freedom:

We thank you for William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart,

who witnessed that all are made in your image and likeness.

Fill us, like them, with the perseverance to break every chain of enslavement,

that, by your Holy Spirit, your people may overcome bondage and ignorance;

through the merits of Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who with you

and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)


God, in whose service alone is perfect freedom:

We thank you for your prophets William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart,

who testified that we are not made by the color of our skin but by principle formed in our soul.

Fill us, like them, with the hope and determination to break every chain of enslavement,

that bondage and ignorance may melt like wax before flames,

and we may build that community of justice and love which is founded on Jesus Christ our cornerstone;

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Wisdom 10:9-14

Psalm 82

1 John 2:28-3:3

Mark 5:25-34

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 125