Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Outreach/African American Adventist Heritage in the NAD

African American Adventist Heritage in the NAD
North American Division
See also African American Adventist Heritage in the NAD - Advanced
Skill Level 1
Year of Introduction: 2010

The purpose of this honor is to illustrate how God has led within the Adventist church to share His message through the events, places, and contributions of the people of a specific cultural group.

1. Who was William E. Foy and how did he become involved in the Millerite movement? edit

A Millerite preacher, of interest to Seventh-day Adventists because his name is occasionally mentioned as one who in 1842 and 1844 had visions relating to the Adventist (Millerite) movement. He was described as a tall, light-skinned Black man, an eloquent speaker. He lived in New England and as a young man in 1835 gave his heart to Christ. Sometime thereafter he became a member of the Freewill Baptist Church. However, in 1842 he was preparing to take holy orders as an Episcopal minister. It was at this time that he had two visions relating to the near advent of Christ and to last-day events. Prior to this, while deeply religious, he had been, by his own testimony, “opposed to the doctrine of Jesus’ near approach,” but after the visions he joined the Millerites in heralding the message of the expectation of Christ’s coming.

The account of two initial visions of William Foy, together with a brief sketch of his Christian experience, was published in 1845 in pamphlet form in Portland, Maine. The first occurred Jan. 18, 1842, while he was attending a prayer service in Boston on Southark Street. According to eyewitnesses he was in vision two and a half hours. The pamphlet includes the statement of a physician who examined him during a vision and testified that he could find no appearance of life “except around the heart.” As Foy declared: “My breath left me.”

In the first vision, Foy saw the reward of the faithful and the punishment of sinners. Although he felt it his duty to tell what he had seen, he made the excuse that he had not been instructed to relate it. Finding no peace of mind, he had a description of the vision printed, but it was a “very imperfect sketch.” In a second vision, on Feb. 4, 1842, in which he saw multitudes of those who had not died and those who had been raised from the dead being assembled to receive their reward, he heard the instruction that he was to reveal what he had seen and to warn his fellow creatures to flee from the wrath to come.

Foy’s unwillingness to relate to others what he had seen stemmed not only from the prejudice of the Millerites against any who claimed to have divine revelations but also, he said, from “the prejudice among the people against those of my color.” He questioned in his mind, “Why should these things be given to me, to bear to the world?”

On Feb. 6, 1842, the pastor of the Bloomfield Street church in Boston called upon Foy to relate the visions in his house of worship. He consented reluctantly, and the next afternoon he faced a large congregation. As he began to speak, his fear left him, and he related with great freedom the things he had seen.

After this he traveled for three months delivering his messages to crowded houses of many denominations. When speaking, he wore the robes of the Episcopal clergy. As he graphically described the heavenly world, the New Jerusalem, and the compassionate love of Christ, and exhorted the unconverted to seek God, many responded to his entreaties. However, because his family needed support, Foy, after three months, retired from public work to labor with his hands. Three months later, feeling impelled to deliver his message, he again took up his public ministry, expecting soon to see his Saviour.

Ellen Harmon heard Foy speak in Beethoven Hall in her home city, Portland, Maine, when she was but a girl. According to J. N. Loughborough, Foy had a third vision near the time of the expectation in 1844 in which he saw three platforms, which he could not understand in the light of his belief in the imminent coming of Christ. In perplexity he ceased public work.

Some have questioned the genuineness of William Foy’s experience, but others have felt that the “visions bore clear evidence of being the genuine manifestations of the Spirit of God” (Loughborough, The Great Second Advent Movement, p. 146). Ellen White in a 1912 interview (EGW Document File 231) reported that she had talked with him once when he was present in a meeting in which she was relating her own early visions, and that he had said that her account was just what he had seen. She apparently regarded his experience as genuine.

The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2002

William Ellis Foy, a Baptist training for the ministry in Boston, was an eloquent speaker with an impressive command of the language. He was arguably the most controversial of Black Millerite preachers because he received visions during the two years just preceding the Great Disappointment.

We know that Foy hesitated to relate what he had seen, as had others, including Ellen White. In addition to the ridicule that one would experience just for being a Millerite, he no doubt felt he would suffer additionally because of being a Black man during that time.

Information about Foy was scant or confusing until the book The Unknown Prophet was written by Delbert Baker. Now we know that he joined other Black preachers of that period in successfully communicating the Advent message to both Black and White audiences." His visions bore the stamp of divine origin.

William Foy's grave (spelled Foye on the tombstone) is located at the very back of the Birch Tree cemetery in East Sullivan, Maine. His stone reads:

Rev. William E. Foye Died in Plantation No. 7 Nov. 9, 1893 Age 74 years

More Information

Info from

William E. Foy, a member of the Freewill Baptist Church, who was preparing for the ministry, was given two visions in Boston in 1842—one on January 18 and the other on February 4. In the first of these revelations, Foy viewed the glorious reward of the faithful and the punishment of sinners. Not being instructed to relate to others what was shown him, he told no one of his vision; but he had no peace of mind. In the second revelation he witnessed the multitudes of earth arraigned before heaven's bar of judgment; a “mighty angel” with silver trumpet in hand about to descend to earth by “three steps;” the books of record in heaven; the coming of Christ and the reward of the faithful. He was bidden, “Thou must reveal those things which thou hast seen, and also warn thy fellow creatures to flee from the wrath to come.”—The Christian Experience of Wm. E. Foy, Together With the Two Visions He Received (1845).

Two days after this revelation he was requested by the pastor of the Bloomfield Street church in Boston to relate the visions. Although he was a fluent speaker, he reluctantly complied, fearing that the general prejudice against visions, and the fact that he was a mulatto, would make his work difficult. The “large congregation assembled” was spellbound, and with this initial encouragement, Foy traveled three months, delivering his message to “crowded houses.” Then to secure means to support his family, he left public work for a time, but, finding “no rest day nor night,” he took it up again. Ellen Harmon, when but a girl, heard him speak at Beethoven Hall in Portland, Maine. (Interview of D. E. Robinson with Mrs. E. G. White, 1912. White Publications, D.F. 231.)

Near the time of the expectation in 1844, according to J. N. Loughborough, Foy was given a third vision in which were presented three platforms, which he could not understand in the light of his belief in the imminent coming of Christ, and he ceased public work. (The Great Second Advent Movement, pages 146, 147.)

It so happened that a short time after this, Foy was present at a meeting in which Ellen Harmon related her first visions. She did not know that he was present until he interrupted with a shout, and exclaimed that it was just what he had seen. (D.F. 231.) Foy did not live long after this.

2. Name two African American preachers of the Millerite Movement and learn how God used them to share His message. edit

William Ellis Foy - He was a preacher in the Millerite movement, plus God called him to be a prophet, but knowing the prejudice against his race, he was afraid and God had to call someone else. Charles Bowles - He was a Millerite preacher in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

3. Learn about 3 African American abolitionists who were influenced by the Advent movement. edit

Sojourner Truth (1797–1883) Sojourner Truth was an abolitionist and woman's rights activist who lectured with Millerites and is believed to have accepted the Seventh-day Adventist message. She was buried in Battle Creek, Michigan, in the same graveyard in which Ellen G. White and other Adventist pioneers rest.

Lewis C. Sheafe (1859–1938) Sheafe trailblazed black Seventh-day Adventism in Washington, D.C. He was an important and controversial figure who fought for black equality in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Rosetta Douglass Sprague (1839–1906) Eldest daughter of Frederick Douglass, Sprague converted to Seventh-day Adventism in the 1890s and was a member of Washington, D.C.'s First Church.

4. Name the first African American ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church edit

a. Where was he born and raised? edit

Charles Kinney was born in Richmond, VA in 1855, and moved to Reno, NV at the age of about 11. A Star Gives Light - The Seventh-day Adventist African-American Heritage Teacher's REsource Guide.1989. p23

b. Where did he travel to and with whom? edit

Charles moved westward to Reno, NV with a band of freed slaves after the end of the Civil War. Ibid.

c. What minister influenced him and where was he baptized? edit

Kinney was won to the Adventist faith through the preaching of J. N. Loughborough and E. G. White in Reno, NV.

d. Learn how God used him to share God's message. edit

Charles Kinney becomes first black, ordained SDA minister in 1889. He was one of the major pioneers in the black work, founding at least 6 churches: Edgefield, Louisville, bowling Green, New Orleans, Nashville, and Birmingham. Charles also was the first to call for Black Conferences. Ibid p25 26

5. When was the first African American Seventh-day Adventist Church organized? edit

1883 in November

a. Why was it organized? edit

b. Where was it located? edit

The first black SDA congregation was formed in Edgefield Junction (Madison), Tennessee. Harry Lowe serves as first Pastor.

6. What was the “Morning Star”? edit

a. Why was it built and who encouraged this endeavor? edit

Edson White, Ellen and James White's son, built the Morning Star, a steamship, in 1894 to carry the gospel to African-Americans. In order for them to read the Bible Edson had to teach them to read. This got him in trouble with white Southerners, so he had to flee many times. Ellen White was the one who encouraged Edson in this endeavor.

b. How and where was the Morning Star used? edit

The Morning Star was used to educate and bring the gospel to African-Americans along the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers. Especially at Memphis and Vicksburg. They started churches and schools for African- Americans in the South including 40 schools in Vicksburg. They also started the Southern Missionary Society in Yazoo City.

c. Learn about several individuals that were instrumental in this work. edit

Edson White and Will Palmer headed the endeavor. Finis Parker, a black teenager, was the pilot. Alonzo Parker, a black preacher, also assisted. A Star Gives Light, Teachers' resource Guide. Publ. by the Southern Union Conference Office of Education, 1989. p27-29

d. Discover at least one miracle that occurred on the Morning Star. edit

7. Name two historical African American publications. edit

a. Who began each publication? edit

1. The Gospel Herald was begun by Edson White (Ellen White's son) at Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1898. It is designed to be an educational, industrial, and evangelistic journal for Black people.

2. The Informant/Regional Voice was a monthly bulletin published by G.E. Peters in 1941. The publication ended in 1978.

b. What is the current name of the NAD Publication for African Americans? edit

Message was the successor of the Gospel Herald, and thus it was Edson White's brain-child, but it didn't get off the ground until 1934. Its first editor was R. B. Thurber. "A Star Gives Light," p118. It is published at the Review & Herald in Hagerstown, MD.

8. Why was the first African American Adventist Camp Meeting held? edit

The country was still legally ethnically divided by segregation. It was not safe for ethnically diverse people to worship together. In order for people to learn and grow it had to be done.

a. When and where was this camp meeting held? edit

In 1901 in Edgefield, Tn.

b. How did God use the Camp Meeting to further His work? edit

People learned the end-time message at the camp meeting, and were so excited that they shared the message with others. In 1909, there were about 900 black Seventh-day Adventist (SDA). That number grew to 3500 by 1918, and to 7000 by 1922.

9. Name the first African American Adventist College and how did it receive its name edit

a. When and where was it founded? edit

Oakwood University was founded in 1896 as Oakwood Industrial School in Huntsville Alabama. Legend has it that the school was named for a stand of oak trees found on the campus. The school first opened in 1896 with 16 students. Classes were offered in various trades and skills. In 1904, the name was changed to Oakwood Manual Training School, and it was chartered to grant degrees in 1907. In 1917, the school offered its first instruction at the postsecondary level, and in that same year it changed its name to Oakwood Junior College. In 1944, the name Oakwood College was adopted. The first bachelor’s degrees were awarded in 1945. Oakwood College received its initial accreditation from SACS in 1958, and in 2007, the college received approval to award graduate degrees. In response to this higher accreditation, the school's Board of Trustees and constituents voted to change the name of the institution again to Oakwood University of Seventh-day Adventists.

b. Who located the site for the school? edit

In 1896, a 360-acre plot in Huntsville, Alabama, came to the attention of the General Conference when Ellen G. White advised church leaders that God had revealed to her this was to be the spot for the school where African American Seventh-day Adventists would be educated and trained until the end of time. An envoy of three men was sent to survey the land: O.A. Olsen, president of the General Conference; G.A. Irwin, director of the Southern District; and Harmon Lindsay, veteran church worker and former General Conference employee. So the General Conference purchased the old Beasley Estate in 1896. The place was called Oakwood because of the 65 oaks that towered on the property.

c. What was the size of the property chosen? edit

360 acres. Additional land has been acquired since then.

10. Who was Anna Knight? edit

a. Where and when was she born? edit

Born in Gitano, Mississippi, on March 4, 1874, Knight early developed an iron will and steel resolve that would characterize her life.

Anna Knight is one of the most influential individuals in the history of Oakwood. Anna Knight was a fixture at Oakwood for nearly a half a century, beloved and respected, until her death on June 3, 1972. Oakwood Elementary is named after Anna Knight.

b. What education did she obtain and from where? edit

In 1901 Anna Knight completed a nursing education studying under Dr. John Harvey Kellogg at Battle Creek College

c. What became her life work? edit

Education. She also was the first black missionary.

d. To what mission field was she the 1st overseas African American Seventh-day Adventist female Missionary? edit

Knight sailed to Calcutta, India to do missionary work, becoming the second black Adventist (of either gender) sent by the Seventh-day Adventist Church on foreign missions. She is also reported to be the first black woman missionary of any denomination to India.

11. In 1934 who became the first African American Master Comrade (Master Guide) to be invested? edit

Eva G. Strother (1906–1992) invested by John Hancock [1]

a. Where and when was she born? edit

Madison County, Alabama

b. What was her life work and whom did she serve for Christ? edit

Adventist Youth Ministry was her life's work and she specifically served Pathfinders for Christ.

12. Who became the first African American Vice President of the General Conference? edit

FL Peterson in 1962

a. Where and when was he born? edit

He was born in Pensacola, Florida in 1893.

b. Where did he obtain his education? edit

He obtained his education from Pacific Union College.

c. For what is he most remembered in his ministry? edit

He is most remembered for being the first African American Vice President of the General Conference.

13. Name the first African American to serve as President of the North American Division. edit

CE Bradford in 1979

a. Where and when was he born? edit

He was born in Washington, D.C. in 1925.

b. Where did he obtain his education? edit

He did his undergraduate degree at Oakwood College, he received his graduate studies at Potomac College which was located in Washington, D.C. Potomac College later relocated to Berrien Springs, MI on the campus of Andrews University in 1958.

c. For what is he most remembered in his ministry? edit

For 11 years he served as President of the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventists, the first African-American to hold that post.

14. When was the first Regional Conference approved? edit

a. Where was the first regional Conference? edit

Allegheny, Lake Region, and Northeastern conferences formed in 1945

b. What year was the first region conference begun? edit

On October 8, 1931, Oakwood students refused to attend classes or work. Among the students’ grievances were: white leadership (there had been no black president and the administration was mostly white); inadequate curriculum; a work load that left no time for studies; segregation (white and black teachers were to have no social interaction); suspect white teachers (students claimed the teachers were rejects from white Adventist colleges); unjust salaries (white teachers were paid more than black teachers); inattention to student concerns; and inadequate employment opportunities after graduation. Many Adventists who would later became famous in the denomination and dedicate their lives to the gospel ministry were leaders in the strike, including Samuel Rashford, F.L. Bland and W.W. Fordham.

Ultimately the strike was successful. A new era began at Oakwood in 1932 when J.L. Moran became Oakwood’s first black president and an entirely black faculty was installed. Moran occupied this position until 1945, and the close of his tenure marked the beginning of Regional Conferences. This was a time when blacks came into their own in the Adventist church, assuming leadership positions over their own constituencies. With the assumption of the Oakwood presidency by Moran, Oakwood became a black-run institution, a symbol of black competence and ability amidst a region where such notions were not widely held. This black ascension to leadership was critical in ushering in Regional Conferences in 1945.

c. Name the first five regional conferences. edit

From 1945 to 1947, seven Black Conferences were formed: Allegheny, Lake Region, and Northeastern (1945), South Atlantic and South Central (1946), and Central States and Southwest Region (1947). In 1967 Allegheny divided into the Allegheny East and Allegheny West, while the South Atlantic divided into the South Atlantic and Southeastern Conferences in 1981. Regional Conferences were not formed in the two westernmost districts: Pacific and North Pacific Union Conferences. Work amongst the Black population in these areas was coordinated by a Regional Affairs Office. (Baker, “Regional Conferences”, p14.)

Also Bermuda is a separate black dominated and black led conference within the North American Division.

Perhaps the question intended to ask for the first 7 regional conferences. All 7 were organized by various Unions under the same historical conditions

d. In 1946 what Regional Conferences were added? edit

According to the quoted research, this question conflicts with question c, or at least is redundant. Perhaps the intended year in the question is 1947.

Iowa-Missouri Conference

15. Do one of the following as a presentation at an Adventist Youth/Pathfinder Meeting, campout, or other equivalent event edit

a. Create a song, poem, story or skit about African American Adventist pioneers. edit

some potential pioneers to work with:

Eva B. Dykes become the first black woman in the United States to complete requirements for the Ph.D. degree (1921). She gave up a career at Howard to teach at Oakwood, helping it achieve accreditation.

This timeline contains many of the answers requested here and highlights African American pioneers worth learning more about.

      • Or make a scrapbook of 12 of the Early Black Seventh-Day Adventist Notables, one page for each and do your 5 W's for each page.

Share the scrapbook with the pathfinders in your club or if you can get permission you can share it with the investiture service for the congregation. Great place to start and a good way to get your scrapbooking honor. Sojourne Truth, Franklin Bryant, Mary Britton, James Alexander Chiles, William Foy, William Hardy, James Humphrey, Charles Kinny, Anna Knight, Maui Pomare, Lewis Sheafe, Rosetta Sprague, or any of the others from early 1900's

b. Create a display of pictures, articles, and resource materials on five (5) African American leaders in your local conference or church. edit

The information for this requirement will depend on where the Pathfinder lives.

c. Search the scriptures for at least three stories of people of color and write a one-page review of these stories: (Some resources include – Exodus 4:9-16; Exodus 18; Acts 8) edit

This article contains a useful discussion of different views of the role of blacks in the Bible and notes a few examples that could be a starting point

Acts 8 tells the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, one of the first Gentiles to be baptized. He came from a black region, so he may have been black. In Acts 13 we read of Simeon, called Niger, the Latin term for black. There is also Lucias from Cyrene, a geographical location of black people.

References edit

  1. ^ We Are the Pathfinders Strong: The First Fifty Years Willie Oliver, Patricia L. Humphrey, Review and Herald, January 1, 2000