African-American Christians in Colonial America

Who was Black Harry?

The first known black Methodist preacher was Harry “Black Harry” Hosier (also spelled Hoosier, Hoshur, and Hossier; c. 1750–1806). He was so nicknamed because he was very black in complexion. His sermon, “Barren Fig Tree,” was delivered at Adams Chapel, Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1781, and was the first preached by a black to a congregation of Methodists. His sermon in 1784 at Thomas Chapel in Chapeltown, Delaware, was the first preached by a black to a white congregation. Hosier was a circuit-riding preacher who traveled from the Carolinas to New England, where he brought the gospel to slaves, free blacks, and poor as well as affluent whites. Although he was uneducated, Hosier had a remarkable talent and was unusually intelligent. He had a great ability to retain information; since he was unable to read, he memorized the Bible, and became highly creative in his sermons. Some sources call him the most eloquent preacher of his time. Hosier was born a slave near Fayetteville, North Carolina. Except that they came from Africa and were enslaved, nothing is known about his parents. Hosier became a free man and was converted to Methodism; whether this occurred before or after he was freed is unknown.


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