Black History is More than Slavery
By the Reverend James C. Simmons, Pastor of Baber A.M.E. Church and Chairman of Rise Up Rochester, Inc.
On February 2, 2016, the United Postal Service released a stamp of one of our nation’s often forgotten founders, Bishop Richard Allen. Born a slave on February 14, 1760, Allen purchased his freedom and later founded what noted sociologist W.E.B. DuBois called “the greatest Negro organization in the world,” the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. But the birth of the A.M.E. Church represents more than the creation of a new denomination. It represents a people’s quest to hurl defiance at racism and to hold this nation to the truth that “all men are created equal.”
The birth of the A.M.E. Church is the first civil rights movement in the United States. In 1787 black worshippers that knelt in prayer at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, PA were forced off their knees and told to pray in another section constructed for the church’s black members. In response to this sinful act, Allen and others walked out and transformed elements of their mutual benevolent association called the Free African Society into the A.M.E. Church. Mother Bethel, A.M.E. Church, now the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African Americans in the United States, worked to end slavery, created schools for its children, and paved the road for future A.M.E.’s that attacked racism like Denmark Vesey, Madame C.J. Walker, Henry McNeal Turner, Rosa Parks, Daisy Bates, Reverdy Ransome, A. Philip Randolph and so many others.
How unfortunate it is that the feats of men and women like Richard Allen and other black people that have struck fierce blows at racism are more often than not erased from our textbooks and collective consciousness. In a University of Pittsburgh study entitled “Parental Racial Socialization as a Moderator of the Effects of Racial Discrimination on Educational Success among African American Adolescents” its authors contend that children who are racially conscious are better protected from discrimination’s poison and are better poised to experience increased academic success. In other words to teach black children about the black DNA that courses in their veins is to prepare them to excel in their future.
Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” For black people this scripture has always meant more than a children’s Bible lesson. To train up a child means to teach our children that white history is not the default history and black history is much more than slavery. To train up a child means to teach our children that they are more than a negative stereotype or statistic perpetuated in media. To train up a child means to teach our children that they are the seeds of a strong and resilient people that built this nation. To train up a child means to teach our children they are the descendants of Richard Allen and so many others whose “eyes saw beyond their own time”.