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Black History Month

Amanda Berry Smith

Amanda Berry Smith was born a slave in 1837 and became a world famous Methodist evangelist who helped expand the acceptance of the role of women in both the Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal church.

She began preaching in New York–New Jersey area in 1869 despite resistance from African Methodist Episcopal pastors who thought it improper for a woman to preach. In 1870, she began preaching and singing at holiness camp meetings that included White audiences. She traveled to Great Britain, India and Liberia, which inspired her to establish the Amanda Smith Orphanage and Industrial Home for Abandoned and Destitute Colored Children in Harvey, Ill., in 1899. She supported the orphanage in part by the proceeds from her autobiography, An Autobiography, the Story of the Lord's Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith the Colored Evangelist, available online courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The Commission on the Status and Role of Women of the Northern Illinois Conference found and marked her grave in 1991 in Chicago. The same year the Illinois House of Representatives adopted a resolution honoring Ms. Smith's achievements.

For more about the Rev. Amanda Berry Smith, check out:

John H. Bracey Jr., "Amanda Berry Smith," in Notable American women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, vol. 3, edited by Edward T. James and Janet Wilson James (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971), pp. 304-305.

M. H. Cadbury, The Life of Amanda Smith, the African Sybil, the Christian Saint  (Birmingham, England: Cornish Brothers, Ltd., 1916).

Nancy A. Hardesty and Adrienne Israel, "Amanda Berry Smith: A 'Downright, Outright Christian,'" in Spirituality and Social Responsibility: Vocational Vision of Women in the United Methodist Tradition, edited by Rosemary Skinner Keller (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993), 61-80.

Elaine Magalis, Conduct Becoming to a Woman (New York: The General Board of Global Ministries, Women's Division, 2003).

Marshall William Taylor, The Life, Travels, Labors, and Helpers of Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Famous Negro Missionary Evangelist (Cincinnati: Cranston & Stowe, 1886).

Elliott Wright, Holy Company: Christian Heroes and Heroines (New York: Macmillan, 1980).

Last Updated: 04/17/2014

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