“The color line was washed away in the Blood.” – Frank Bartleman
Without a doubt, the United States has been the birthplace of the modern Pentecostal movement. As we continue our celebration of Black History month, it is important to note that our history, the history of the Church, has been shaped by the contributions of Black believers.
Born a slave in Maryland in 1837, Amanda Berry was the daughter of a slave who was able to buy his freedom and that of his wife and five children. The Berry family moved to Pennsylvania where their home became a station on the Underground Railroad. After her first husband was killed while serving in the African Regiments in the Civil War, Amanda remarried and moved to Philadelphia. There, she was born again, joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and received her call to preach. In 1869, she began preaching in churches and at Holiness camp meetings in New York and New Jersey, becoming a popular speaker to both black and white audiences. By the end of the decade, she was known as far north as Maine and as far south as Tennessee. Although she was not ordained or financially supported by the AME Church or any other organization, she became the first black woman to work as an international evangelist in 1878. She served for twelve years in England, Ireland, Scotland, India, and various African countries. She emerged as one of the A.M.E. Church’s most effective missionaries and one of the most remarkable preachers of the age. In the process, she opened the way for more black women to preach in the A.M.E. church.