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Filling in the gaps: lessons from African American Baptist history.

The June 2007 meeting of the Baptist History and Heritage Society in Campbellsville, Kentucky, was for me as an excellent introduction to African American Baptist history.

In recent days as I have read the papers from the meeting, I realized once again that this segment of Baptist history is one of the gaps in my own knowledge of Baptist history in the United States, and I am most grateful to those who presented the papers at our meeting for helping me to begin filling in this gap.

Quinton Dixie, who teaches at Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana, presented the keynote address. Drawing from his dissertation research, he used institutional theories to explore African American Baptist denominationalism, and in doing so, he provided new insights into the institutional structures of black Baptists. Dixie also offered a new approach to understanding identity formation. His keynote address, "Organizing God's Children: The Denominational Tradition and the Problem of Black Baptist Unity," is the first of the ten informative articles on African Americans in Baptist history included in this issue of the journal.

The next three articles, written by Pamela A. Smoot, Lawrence H. Williams, and Kendal R Mobley, explore the work of African American Baptist women. Among the women introduced are Louise "Lulu" Fleming, who was born a slave in Hibernia Clay County, Florida, and who served on the mission field in the Congo as a teacher and later as a medical doctor; Mary Virginia Cook Parrish, who was born a slave in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and later served as editor of the women's column of the Louisville American Baptist, education editor of Our Women and Children, and leader of the National Association of Colored Women and the Women's Convention, an auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention; and Charlotte Hawkins Brown, the founder of the Palmer Memorial Institute near Greensboro, North Carolina, who endeavored to forge genuine friendships across the chasm of American racism.

Two articles feature slave preachers. Gary Burton details the life and contributions of Caesar Blackwell, a nineteenth-century slave evangelist in Alabama, and Benjamin C. Ross portrays the work and legacy of John Jasper, the Virginia Baptist slave preacher who preached his famous sermon, "De Sun Do Move, " more than 250 times.

The final four articles highlight the lives and ministries of four exceptional African American Baptist leaders: L. Venchael Booth, Howard Thurman, Richard Henry Boyd, and Nelson Smith, Jr. Written by William D. Booth, Bonnie J. Oliver, Joe Early, Jr., and Avis Williams, these four articles provide great lessons about cooperation, commitment to freedom and education, and personal sacrifice.

One bonus feature found in each summer/fall issue of Baptist History and Heritage is the inclusion of the Baptist Heritage Preaching Contest's winning sermon. The 2007 winner sermon, "When Baptists Bluff, or Believe," was preached at our annual meeting by W. Brent Jones, a doctoral student at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. His sermon concludes with a timely challenge to us all: "We are all one in the family of Jesus Christ. Let's live and worship like we believe it."

Pamela R. Durso

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Author:Durso, Pamela R.
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 22, 2007
Previous Article:Our Baptist Tradition.
Next Article:Baptists and miracles.

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