Black Preachers and Religious Leaders

How were early black preachers able to spread the Gospel?

Early black Baptist and Methodist preachers, many of whom were unable to read or write, memorized massive portions of the Bible and then went out to teach. Men named Moses, Benjamin, Thomas Gardiner, and Farrell were slave preachers, and it is possible that John Michaels, a white Baptist preacher on the Byrd plantation in Virginia, ordained them in 1774. George Liele and Andrew Bryan were called exhorters, or preaching assistants to white missionaries. After the Revolutionary War ended, white ministers began to license black preachers. Some of the earliest Christian preachers and exhorters were former African priests equipped with leadership and persuasive abilities. Their services were emotionally charged and filled with imagery. Their congregants participated in “shout songs,” handclapping, and holy dancing, and a mourner’s bench was usually maintained.

Richard Allen was a minister and educator who founded the African American Episcopal Church, the first independent black denomination in the United States.


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