Black History Month: Black Abolitionists

by | Feb 27, 2024

When we think of abolitionists, most of us think of Abraham Lincoln or John Brown. But there were many black abolitionists doing the work who, for whatever reason, haven’t received the recognition they deserve. In this episode, Jasmine Holmes stops by to educate us on some of the black abolitionists who helped bring about the end of slavery and who did amazing work in the years following the Civil War.

Episode Captions

Austin (00:00.905) Grace and peace. Welcome back to United We Pray. Austin Souter joined again for the second time in three weeks by Jasmine Holmes. Jasmine, thank you so much for joining us again. Jasmine Holmes (00:09.154) Thank you for having me again. Austin (00:10.981) I think you’ve set a record for guest appearances in terms of frequency. So thank you. Thanks so much for just being able to help, you know, contribute to our Black History Month series. Jasmine Holmes (00:16.534) I love that. Jasmine Holmes (00:22.998) Yeah, absolutely. Austin (00:25.117) We’re talking today about sort of abolitionists broadly and that period of American history in which folks are advocating for the end of slavery and in the period following slavery. And we wanted to frame it this way because I think when folks think of abolitionists, by and large, we’re thinking of white folks, sort of well-meaning white folks who were advocating for the end of slavery, who, you know, and God bless them, and we’re thankful for those folks who… who contributed to the work and it wouldn’t have happened without them, but they weren’t the only folks doing that work. They’re just the folks who tend to be recognized and remembered. Why do you think that is? Jasmine Holmes (01:07.294) I think it’s, I think several reasons. So one of them is this idea of a savior kind of like swooping in to help black people. I think secondly, people really don’t have a solid understanding of what it was to be black in America during. the antebellum period, but not enslaved. I don’t think people really have a category for that. And I also just think that a lot of times our history books only make room for so many black people. So if we have a black abolitionist, it’s just Frederick Douglass, or it’s just Harriet Tubman, or it’s just the truth. So we don’t have this idea that there were hundreds of them. We just have this idea that there were a few exceptional ones, which is not in fact reality. Austin (01:43.814) Right. Austin (01:54.449) Yeah, yeah. So we’re talking today about a few of the folks, and I want to get at sort of a couple different things. One of them is the impact and reception they had during their time. Because even if they’re not remembered today, it doesn’t mean they weren’t impactful then. And I think we’ll see that as we talk through them. So the first person that we covered for Black History Month this year was Francis Grimke, which is no surprise for our listeners. Isaac is… Jasmine Holmes (02:10.4) Absolutely. Austin (02:22.721) certainly inspired by and this ministry in part was launched by his discovery of some of the work of Francis Grimke. But he married well, we should say, and we want to talk about his wife and her family. So who did Francis Grimke marry? Jasmine Holmes (02:31.403) Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (02:35.819) I did. Jasmine Holmes (02:40.29) Mm-hmm. So he married Charlotte Fortin, and I love the fact that Charlotte is 13 years older than Frances because she still had it. Like later in life, had lived a good life, met this young man, and he was captivated by her, as he should have been. I love Charlotte because she grows up in this really extensive abolitionist family. She has her grandfather, James, who is a salemaker and patents a new way of… making sales in some way and becomes one of the richest black men in America, probably only second to Paul Cuffee, another abolitionist. But he uses that money, he funnels it into abolitionist causes, he funnels it into for instance the liberator. He helps to fund the liberator, which a lot of people have heard of William Lloyd Garrison. They had a really close relationship and without James, the liberator might not have even been… might not have even gotten off the ground, right? He’s the one who gave the money for that. He was a huge part of just abolitionist culture in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is kind of a hotbed for abolition in the 1800s. You know, you have James Fortin, you have Frederick Douglass passing through there, you have Sarah Maps Douglas, no relation to Frederick, but her family’s there. And so there’s just this really close knit network of black abolitionists in Philadelphia. And James is kind of the leader of the pack. Then you have James’s children of which there were several. There was Margaretta, she never got married. She was an abolitionist who started her own school and served black kids in Philadelphia, which is really important because at this point school segregation is on and popping in Philadelphia and New York and a lot of other major cities. And so without Margaretta’s school and schools like hers, a lot of black children were not able to get a quality education. So there’s Margaretta. Then there’s Harriet. and harriet marries into another abolitionist family named the pervises and harriet and robert pervis are couple goals like absolute couple goals. robert is a feminist and he’s like robert did a speech where he was like it doesn’t make sense for my son to have the right to vote and not my daughter because my daughter is both black and a woman so she needs the protection of a vote more than my son does which like Jasmine Holmes (05:00.126) in the 1800s is just an unheard of thing to say. He also would like talk that talk and then he sat on the front porch of his house with a shotgun over his lap and was like, and I’m protecting my home. Like I said what I said, and I’m protecting my home. I love, I love him and he could pass for white. And there are several stories of him just being there and hearing some racist stuff being said and being like, yo, by the way, I’m black. Like, let’s talk about it, let’s get into it. So Harriet marries him. Austin (05:11.121) Yeah, come see me about it. Jasmine Holmes (05:28.13) and their house is a station on the Underground Railroad. And Harriet is just able to be involved in all this abolitionist work because her husband is just a supporter. Like it’s my biggest compliment that whenever I read about Robert, I’m like, that’s kind of like Phil. Like I can see, like I can see my husband Phil and Robert, they have a lot in common. Robert loved a powerful woman. He married one, he raised one and was just the best. Then you have Sarah, she married Robert’s little brother. So she is also a Fortin Purvis. She marries into the Purvis family. Unfortunately, Robert’s brother is not as into abolition. And so Sarah’s abolitionist work kind of drops off after she gets married into the Purvis family. But before she gets married, she’s writing for the Liberator. She is part of female literary societies. She’s helping to start the female anti-slavery society. She is involved and invested in the abolitionist movement. And it was honestly really hard for her to get married and start. having a family and have to like move away from all of that. And Charlotte talks about that later in her life, just from her observation of the two different ways that her two different aunts kind of experienced marriage and children. And I think that Harriet was a really big example for Charlotte of like, I can get married and I can be serious about my family, but I can also still be serious about the work. Then you have Robert, who is Charlotte’s father. And he’s the last person I’ll talk about. There are more siblings, but Robert was an inventor. Austin (06:28.137) Hmm. Jasmine Holmes (06:55.558) He has a patented invention. I don’t understand it or how it works, but I think that it’s really cool that he has it. I think it’s I want to say it’s a telescope of some sort or a mechanism within a telescope. But he does that. He marries into a really rich family of black folks who also were slave holders? Very interesting. Robert moves to Canada because he’s like I don’t have I can’t like I can’t with the racism in America. I’m leaving. When the Civil War starts, Robert is 50 plus years old. Robert leaves Canada, comes to the United States, enlists in the army at the tender age of 50, and dies fighting for the freedom of black folks in the South, even though he seemed as far removed from that as possible. He was one of the thousands of soldiers died from disease, and he was one of those. So Charlotte’s growing up, and she’s surrounded by Austin (07:41.842) Wow. Jasmine Holmes (07:54.134) just these giants of people and she starts a journal when she’s 16 and she keeps it um until she is like well into her i believe like 60 70s she’s keeping this journal and she is writing about how she wants to do something she wants to make her mark because she’s very she’s very like it’s been impressed upon her that she has privilege and it’s really important for her to use that privilege for the liberation of black people in the South. So one of her very first entries is about a young man who ran Anthony Burns, who escaped from slavery in Virginia, came to Massachusetts, but because of the fugitive slave law, the Massachusetts government had to send him back into slavery in Virginia. And one of Charlotte’s very first journal entries is about her outrage at that and about who America says she is, who America actually is, and who Charlotte wants America. be. So that kind of like sets the stage for her life. She goes to Salem, she becomes a teacher, she is I think the first black teacher in Salem who teaches classrooms of white children which I find fascinating during that time. When the civil war breaks out Charlotte goes down south to the sea islands, the union has liberated the sea islands and the way that slavery happened in the sea islands was really interesting because the sea islands or off the coast of Georgia, North Carolina or South Carolina. And so enslaved the enslavers would live on land and enslaved people would live on the islands by themselves. So they had their whole their own community away from the enslavers. They were still enslaved, but they had a completely separate community. That becomes really important because when the Union comes and they liberate these folks they see that there’s this thriving culture in the sea islands and they say you know what we need teachers we need teachers we need people that teach them how to use a trade and we’re gonna use we’re gonna use this place we’re gonna use port royal as an example of the fact that have given the means to succeed in society the formerly enslaved will succeed in society so charlotte is a really important part of coming down and taking part in that endeavor she’s the first Jasmine Holmes (10:15.298) who’s like with the union and she’s the only black person who’s like with the union. And so she kind of enters into this hornet’s nest and just has to duck and dodge and bob and weave. And sometimes the way she does it, I don’t approve of. And sometimes the way she does it, I totally get and would do myself. But the fact is that she was living in a very fraught environment and just kind of making it work. But the cool thing about Charlotte is that She’s also a folklorist. She goes to the sea islands. She’s introduced to the Gullah community and she becomes one of the first people to write about this community of black people who live off the coast of the United States. And she writes about their language. She writes about their religion. She writes about their customs. She writes for the Atlantic and is really the first person to kind of shine light on this culture. Then she goes to DC. She becomes a teacher at M Street School. M Street School is, it’s really hard for me to quantify. what a factory of greatness in street school was. So many black abolitionists kind of went through there at one point as teachers. So Charlotte worked there and while she was in DC, she met Francis and she was like you know I’ve had a really full life I guess I’ll get married and then they wed. Austin (11:33.397) So she meets Francis and marries him after the Civil War. Francis is already a pastor. Jasmine Holmes (11:38.712) Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (11:41.918) Yes, he is. Austin (11:43.913) So what does her life look like after she marries him? Does her work, is she, of her aunts, let’s say, like is she, does her work sort of cease or is it sort of energized by her marriage to this pastor? Jasmine Holmes (11:52.695) Yeah. Jasmine Holmes (11:58.686) It’s very energized and it’s very intertwined. Charlotte and Francis were this combined front who used hospitality a lot of times as like a ground for all of the things that they wanted to do. Unfortunately, Charlotte only had one daughter named Theodora and she died in infancy. So Charlotte didn’t have kids to raise and run around and all that. And so she really extended herself towards the community, both through the church and also as a teacher. She kept writing. kept journaling and then once Francis’s niece, Angelina Weld Grimke, kind of comes of age, Charlotte kind of takes her under her wing. Austin (12:41.149) Yeah, I was going to ask if she continued to write. I mean, being in DC, did that sort of afford her more opportunities for publication than, you know, living in the Sea Islands, for example? Jasmine Holmes (12:43.99) Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (12:51.562) you know honestly she had a lot more success in publication living in the sea islands just because she was the first folklorist to kind of be there and so it was like whoever like whoever’s writing about it we want we want to hear this because this is a part of culture that we’ve never quite been exposed to and so if you just look at it on paper it looks like she kind of faded to the background after she got married but if you read her journals and you read what francis thought about her you see that she was still very impactful to his life and ministry after they got married. Austin (13:20.881) Yeah, I love that. Now, they had to leave DC at some point because of her health, right? Austin (13:29.917) But was that later in life or was that, you know, so she gets married at 50. Jasmine Holmes (13:30.155) Mm-hmm. Yeah. Jasmine Holmes (13:36.518) Yeah, yeah, so it’s a little bit later in life, but her entire life Charlotte struggles with what we think might have been tuberculosis. Here’s something crazy. So in the 1800s there’s something that historians now call consumptive chic. People used to call tuberculosis consumption and so when we talk about consumptive chic we talk about this thing where tuberculosis is kind of a trend, very weird, but it makes you skinny because you can’t really eat. It puts a flush in your cheeks because you always have a fever. You know what I’m saying? Like it’s, and it’s also like if you’re, if you’re a poet or if you’re a sensitive person, you’re going to get tuberculosis because tuberculosis is for sensitive people and it’s for the ladies or the men who are like really kind of feminine, you know? And so as part of Charlotte’s entire life, she struggles with this sickness and she leverages it. her entire life. Because if you think about Black womanhood in the North even, you still have this idea that Black women are kind of a different species than white women. That they’re not as gentle, right? They’re not as sensitive. They don’t need to be handled with care. But because of Charlotte’s sickness, she was gentle and she was perceived as sensitive and she didn’t need to be handled with care. And so she, the ways that she leverages that while she is in the Sea Islands, it’s both, It’s understandable, but it’s also like, girl, you’re doing a lot. So they do move for her health. She really does have health issues, but throughout her life, she kind of really capitalized on those health issues. Because as a black woman, having her, that was one of the only ways that she could have her femininity be perceived was, I have tuberculosis, I am sick. Austin (15:24.031) Mmm. Austin (15:28.285) Wow. And that registered with people in a way that it might not have otherwise. Jasmine Holmes (15:34.915) Exactly. Austin (15:35.273) Got it. So this is such an interesting period of history because you’ve got abolitionists working to end slavery, and then you have the Civil War, and then slavery ends. But we don’t see sort of this idealized picture of America, what Charles’ aunts wanted America to be, for example, in the years following the Civil War. Jasmine Holmes (15:43.99) Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (15:58.604) Yeah. Austin (16:00.625) And so it takes a bunch of effort by a bunch of people to try and invest in the lives of free black folks when society isn’t giving them the rights and opportunities that they would have hoped in the years following the Civil War. So were there people like her doing this work that you wanna talk about? Jasmine Holmes (16:14.986) Absolutely. Jasmine Holmes (16:19.726) So many people. There was an entire organization called the American Missionary Association that sent both black and white teachers down south to teach the formerly enslaved, to teach them about the Bible, to teach them theology, but also just to teach them how to read and teach them how to write. And so you have this beautiful picture of these young people who are learning in a classroom for the very first time. with their parents and grandparents also sitting in the classroom with them and learning and just soaking up the education being provided. One of my favorite teachers to study is Sarah G Stanley. She was a black woman who came from New Bern, North Carolina and Sarah was a spitfire, an absolute spitfire. And again, similar to what we talked about with Robert Purvis, she could pass for white and she would watch people’s reaction to her before they found out that she was black. and after they found out that she was black. And there’s a really famous letter of hers where she catches another teacher being prejudiced, being racist, and she writes a letter to the association and she’s like, clearly she needs to go back and learn the ABCs of the gospel, because what are we here for? What are we here for? So it’s, she’s incredible, she’s incredible, but she’s not the only one. There are so many, and again, both black and white teachers with the American Missionary Association, particularly the plaque teachers were able to make inroads that the white teachers just couldn’t. And they had sometimes, sometimes their observations were still a little, a little or a lot paternalistic, but oftentimes they were less paternalistic than their white counterparts. Austin (17:58.697) Sure. And I mean, what do we have in terms of writing and primary sources on their life and work during this period? Jasmine Holmes (18:08.398) There is a really cool book about the American Missionary Association. I can’t think of the title right. Wait a minute. Do I have it on my shelf? I do. The Truth is Marching On. It is an academic book. It is kind of thick, but it’s all about black folks who taught with the American Missionary Association between 1861 and 1877. And it is chock full of names and letters and all kinds of amazing things. Austin (18:36.23) Who wrote that one? Jasmine Holmes (18:38.678) This is by Clara Merritt-DeBoer. Austin (18:43.242) Yeah, I just wanted to link to that in the show notes because we want to give folks the opportunity to explore more. So you’ve got the American Missionary Alliance, you’ve got the whole Grimkey family being a force. Is there anyone else you wanted to highlight from this period? Jasmine Holmes (18:45.666) Absolutely. Jasmine Holmes (18:56.829) Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (19:00.182) Oh, let’s talk about Frances Ellen Watkins Harper because she is my favorite. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was a orator who was so powerful and so graceful and so just amazing at what she did that her nickname in the newspapers was the Bronze Muse, which I think is incredible. I just think that’s I think that’s so cool. I want somebody to call me a muse. I really do. But she is. going around and she is speaking on the anti-slavery circuit. She’s also a poet. She writes really powerful popular poetry that gets circulated in abolitionist newspapers. She’s also one of the first black novelists in American history with her novel Iola Leroy which is about an enslaved woman in the south and has all of these really just whip smart observations about so-called Christianity in the south kind of what we talked about. the last in the last episode we had together um but she has a lot of really incisive observations about that in her novels and also in her speeches and again you know you pointed out something so important which is that when these when the civil war was over these abolitionists did not cease to be activists they kept they kept being activists on behalf of the very same people that had just gotten freed because they were like okay and now and now we want citizenship rights and now we want education. now we want to see women have the same rights to vote as black men and white men have and so they just continue along this along this cycle. um francis ellen wakens harper was just one example of she went from an a really passionate abolitionist and then after the war she became a feminist and also her observations about white feminism are chef’s kiss. she was just like you know everybody who thinks that white women are just like again what we just talked about with charlotte fortin Everybody thinks that white women are inherently good and inherently virtuous. And I’m here to tell you that they’re not, that we have to be protected, that we have to have the right to vote just as they have to have the right to vote. Because all of our voices are necessary. Austin (21:05.509) And I think about with someone like her, speaking as an abolitionist, like for your job, to travel and speak like that, as a woman on top of it, like there are safer gigs. Jasmine Holmes (21:14.36) Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (21:21.15) Absolutely, especially because after the war she went down south and she was talking that talk down south. Another cool thing about Francis is that before so we always hear about Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat and do not get me wrong. I love me some Rosa. But she was far from the first person who had that kind of altercation in public transportation. And Francis Ellen Watkins Harper was one of the first in a streetcar. She was asked to give up her seat and she was like no. and she wrote about her experience afterwards um in a way that at the time was very impactful and people would have people would have known her name you know these names that i’m saying sarah jay staley not so much but people would have known who james forton was people would have known who francis elton wakom’s harper was these were people who were in the limelight like out at the front lines Austin (22:10.965) amongst black folks or white folks or both. Jasmine Holmes (22:13.634) both because the abolitionist movement when we think about has a lot of different arms. so when we think about the liberator i just said his name william loy garrison when we think about the william loy garrison arm it was very much about including black people and black voices in this battle for freedom. But also you have people like William and Ellen Kraft who escaped slavery in the South. That book that just came out by Ilion Wu, Master Slave Husband Wife, is all about them going from Georgia to, I wanna say Philadelphia, on a train. Ellen is white passing, she dresses up as a slave holder, she pretends that her husband… is enslaved by her and they make their way all the way up north on a train. so you have stories like that regardless of where you are right so regardless of where you are in the abolitionist spectrum you’re gonna hear that story. you’re gonna hear about henry box brown mailing himself to freedom. you know like those kind of stories are gonna transcend all the different little niches and cliques of abolition. Austin (23:08.629) Wow. Austin (23:24.553) Something I’m fascinated by and spend a lot of time thinking about is just how media consumption has changed over time. So now you kind of, like, your phone curates what you need to think according to it, and, you know, that’s the information you get. In those days, you’ve got publications like The Liberator. How else are stories like this spreading? Jasmine Holmes (23:38.942) Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (23:46.389) Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (23:49.934) Well, the Liberator was just one newspaper. Newspaper was an incredible, like it cannot be overstated how important newspapers were to circulating the message of abolition. Newspapers were persona non grata in the South. Don’t bring those newspapers down here, because if you do, then that message is gonna be heard. And honestly, that’s the same moving forward in history. You know, as somebody who studies history around, like I’m kind of in the… 1920s, 30s, progressive era, you know, and if I wanna learn about lynchings, I cannot look at Southern publications to find out about lynchings. I have to look at Northern publications because the Southern publications were not publishing about those in the same way. And in a similar way, when it came to people like Ellen Kraft, she’s not being published about in Southern newspapers. And so… Getting the word out in newspaper form and getting those newspapers into people’s hands was one of the major ways that the abolitionist message Spreads you have the Liberator, but you also have freedoms journal, which is a really important. I think it was the first black Abolitionist newspaper was freedoms journal. You have the provincial freedmen by Oh Goodness, her name is slipping my mind Mary It’ll come It’ll come it’s gone it should be there because she’s the very first black woman in America to have her own newspaper and that’s gonna kill me that’s gonna really bother me. Austin (25:19.665) Well, you can look that up if you want. But while you’re thinking of that one, I’m just wondering, there are publications sort of like The Liberator, which are abolitionist-based publications. But then you mentioned that Charlotte Grimke is picked up by The Atlantic. So are there publications that are friendly to abolition who sort of aren’t dedicated to abolition? Jasmine Holmes (25:22.049) I know. Jasmine Holmes (25:38.679) Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (25:47.362) There were more so there were publishers who were interested in discussing the topic. So right. So even if they’re not abolitionist newspapers and even if they’re not particularly friendly to abolition, they’re not hostile to it. And it’s something that’s happening in its news. So it kind of makes it in there. But again, you know, Charlotte is making her way into the Atlantic after the Civil War because she’s writing as a folklorist. And people up north are really curious about these southern black folks that they haven’t. come in contact with before. And she’s kind of feeling that. Mary Ann Shad, Mary Ann Shad. Austin (26:22.193) Yes. Yes, we spoke about her offline. Jasmine Holmes (26:25.547) I know, I talk about her all the time. It just left, it left my brain. Austin (26:29.509) Well, there’s so many names. I’m really impressed you can keep track of all of these names, especially because they don’t get a fair shake. I think you’re doing really good work to highlight folks from history who made a meaningful contribution who just, for whatever reason, aren’t getting the same level of recognition that some of the others do. Austin (26:49.181) Why has that been such an important cause of yours? Jasmine Holmes (26:53.874) Oh, growing up in a very Baptist household in the South, being homeschooled. Christian heritage is something that was harped on a lot, a lot, a lot. And we would look at these figures in history and we would be told that they had a Christian heritage, but they would be slave holders or they would be extremely racist, for instance. Dabney was a person who growing up, it’s like, I mean, his systematic theology is brilliant. He’s a brilliant man. And so, you know, I’m being told like, he’s amazing. And then I get to his ideas about black folks and I’m like, uh, this feels wrong. And I’m being told, well, that’s okay. He was a man of his time and nobody knew, nobody knew better. And so as an adult, it became really important to me to see if that was true. to see if nobody knew better. Because for me, my humanity is so obvious that how could you not know better? And there were people in Dabney’s time and before Dabney’s time who felt the exact same way that I do. And so finding those voices and particularly finding those voices who claimed to serve the exact same God that I served became vitally important to my faith journey. Austin (28:09.725) You know, I appreciate you sharing that, sort of the personal element of that, but when you think about someone like Dabney, I talked to Thomas Kidd a couple seasons ago about Jefferson, and the excuses always made about Jefferson because of his contributions and even, you know, his writings that were picked up by the abolitionists in terms of the, you know, all men created equal idea that’s sort of baked into our consciousness. But, so with all of that, there’s all the… Jasmine Holmes (28:19.469) Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (28:27.638) Absolutely. Jasmine Holmes (28:32.393) Mm-hmm. Austin (28:37.617) impetus in the world, all the motivation in the world to cover his failings and call him a man of his time. But when you look at his life, he had so many people confronting him over his hypocrisy on slave holding. Contemporaries, white contemporaries, who understood the hypocrisy and who were calling him out. Like, it was there. It just, it didn’t win the day for a time. And Jasmine Holmes (28:49.422) Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (29:01.664) Absolutely. Austin (29:04.094) That’s tragic and unfortunate, but we can’t forget that, because if we do, we make those silly arguments about, you know, time somehow excusing wrongdoing. Jasmine Holmes (29:16.254) And people who knew that they were doing wrong, you know, you have Patrick Henry Give me liberty or give me death Patrick Henry who was like, yeah slavery is really wrong, but it’s really convenient So hopefully time is kind when it thinks back to being because I’m not getting rid of my slaves Like you said it we heard you said it so, you know and Jefferson also has moments like that Where it’s like, okay, you said it we heard you. Um Austin (29:34.333) Yeah. Yep. Jasmine Holmes (29:41.462) their own words condemn them. They have a knowledge, they have an understanding. Why did George Washington free his enslaved people after he died? Why would he do that? Well because they deserve liberty but not while I’m living because I need them to work for me. Austin (29:56.297) Oh, God help us. Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s so… I appreciate the folks you’ve highlighted and I appreciate your heart and motivation to highlight them because it’s such a maddening period of American history because not only is this evil happening and there are folks, you know… trying to baptize it and make it good, even the people, you know, there’s so many sects, so many different groups of people you can be frustrated with. Because there are the slavery advocates who are, you know, trying to call wicked good. And then you have the folks we’ve just talked about who know that it’s wrong, but, you know, the golden handcuffs of convenience and money are too much for them to overcome. But then you’ve got this whole… Jasmine Holmes (30:24.866) Mm-hmm. Austin (30:46.665) sect of people we’ve been talking about who just have this moral clarity that is so attractive and enviable and that we want for our day in various ways, right? Jasmine Holmes (30:57.718) Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And honestly, even when I talk about these folks, you’ll hear me say, like, there are times when I’m really disappointed in them. There are times where they do act like people of their time and they do, you know, they do act really paternalistic and they are, they are behaving in ways that, you know, I vehemently disagree with. So, you know, the idea isn’t even that these people are perfect, but the idea is that these folks had a… a burning in their chest for justice and they pursued it as much as they were able throughout their lives and i think that’s a really important thing to highlight. Austin (31:42.621) As you study these folks and that you narrowing in on justice there, as we try to imitate them as they imitate Christ, understanding that they are not perfect, what are the traits you pick up on that you think, I want that for me? Jasmine Holmes (31:58.486) Mm-hmm. A boldness for sure. I think, so I have now written two books about Black abolitionists. And the lesson from the first one was boldness. These, I wrote about 10 Black women who just consistently spoke truth to power in so many different ways. And my husband will tell you, I am a different person. I become a different person through learning from them and through their example of speaking up, of being. willing to say hard things and not to hurt people, right? Or not to cause controversy, but just to speak up about what is right. That was a lesson from the first one. And my lesson from the second one was that being a believer is central to this fight for justice, whether I’m always spelling it out 24 seven or not. I work at a public institution. I don’t talk about the gospel every day, but when people come in contact with me and when I am speaking the truth, to them day by day, that is still an outgrowth of my Christian faith, even when I’m not explicitly telling them about my Christian faith. Seeing that in the lives of these abolitionists, you know, their Christian faith just permeates everything that they write and everything that they say, whether they are laying out the theology explicitly or whether it’s just implicit. For instance, the idea of the image of God is just throughout so many black abolitionist works and it makes total sense. Of course it is um of course it is. Austin (33:29.989) Yeah, we’re, just as an aside, we’ve got a biblical theology series coming up in which we’re looking through the Old and New Testament and the different books to talk about the doctrines and just the diversity, ethnic diversity we see throughout redemption. And we’re trying to map the Genesis episode right now, and we’re having such a hard time figuring out how we’re going to fit it into an hour, because you could spend an hour just on the doctrine of the image of God. and all that has meant for throughout time. Is that something you see coming up in abolitionist writings? Jasmine Holmes (34:00.798) Absolutely. Jasmine Holmes (34:11.15) Absolutely. My last book, Crown with Glory, is specifically about the ways that Black abolitionists utilize the concept of the Imago Day in their abolitionist work. Austin (34:23.829) Okay, well we’ll make sure to link to that in the show notes. I haven’t gotten to that one yet, that book, but that sounds like I need to read it in preparation. Jasmine Holmes (34:30.978) that makes sense. I’ve been writing too much so I get it. I told somebody said how many books is it how many books have you written? And I said this year by the end of this year it’ll be nine since 2020. That’s too many books. That’s too many books. Yeah 2024 is my year of the calming down. We’ll see how it goes. Austin (34:34.777) No, you haven’t been writing too much. Please keep it up. Austin (34:47.958) I don’t know how you do it. Austin (34:55.869) Well, please keep it up. You’re doing good work. You’re highlighting folks who need to be remembered and need to be celebrated. So thank you for this. And thank you for giving us so much of your time to share in what you’ve learned over the last few years. Jasmine Holmes (35:10.707) It’s my pleasure. Austin (35:12.893) Well, as we close out, why don’t we thank God for these saints and just pray for those same good qualities in our time? I can… I’ll open and let you close. Lord, thank you for your faithfulness to all generations. Thank you for raising up and equipping the generation of abolitionists to accomplish the end of slavery. And thank you for continuing to work in them in the period after. Jasmine Holmes (35:16.27) Mm-hmm. Jasmine Holmes (35:20.298) Absolutely. Jasmine Holmes (35:24.161) Mm-hmm. Austin (35:42.473) the Civil War. Thank you for so many folks who did things like the American Missionary Alliance in going and teaching the formerly enslaved for advocating for them, speaking for them, trying to establish a better and more just country for them. Lord, we admire these folks. We appreciate them. We thank you for them. And even as we acknowledge that they are imperfect, we ask that you give us similar qualities of boldness and conviction and a heart for others. in our day and in our settings wherever you have us. Praise in Jesus’ name, amen. Jasmine Holmes (36:17.57) Dear Lord, thank you for these saints. Thank you for the sacrifices that they made while they were alive for us to just experience freedom and justice today. Thank you for the path that they trod before us. I pray that you would just give us joy in seeing the ways that you were faithful to them. I pray that you would give us confidence in seeing the ways that you were faithful to them and will be faithful to us. I pray that you would just fill us with gratitude for people that you have used for your purposes throughout history. And I pray that we would be those people, as other folks, look back as we look ahead. Amen. Austin (36:55.141) Amen. Well, Jasmine, thank you so much for coming back, and friends, thank you so much for listening. Grace and peace.

LINKS & SHOW NOTES:

  • This UWP Podcast Episode was produced by Josh Deng with editing by Roshane Ricketts.
  • The Truth is Marching On, the book referenced by Jasmine
  • Here’s a link to Jasmine’s excellent books, including Crowned With Glory

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    United? We Pray is a ministry to help Christians pray and think about racial strife. We want to encourage Christians amid the strife to rely upon God in prayer. So our prayers can be informed, we strive to learn and write about race, racism and its effects, and theology. We aim to be biblical, beneficial, and clear in all our efforts. While we’re burdened for all racial strife, we focus on racial strife between Christians because of the unique privilege and stewardship God has given his people: to bear witness to Him and to love all people, especially one another (Gal. 6:10).

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