Church and Missions: Alliance Black History

This month Stonecrest has celebrated groundbreaking figures in Alliance church history including individuals like Mrs. Bell H. Smoot and E. B. Nichols who between 1892 and 1903 spread the message of The Alliance in African American communities across the United States.  The inclusion of African Americans in the early days of The Alliance was remarkable because of their exclusion throughout many areas of American society as things like Jim Crow laws violated individual rights in many states.

But even our own Alliance Black History that started out well took a step backward in later decades. African Americans, who were directly involved in Alliance work overseas in the early days, were later denied the opportunity to participate in the Mission work of the Alliance as colonial governments in Africa actually requested The Alliance not to send black missionaries. As missionary Franklin Ballard observed: “the colonial situation caused the African people to deny proper respect to those of their own race from other countries, a condition which greatly handicapped the colored missionaries and impaired them in their work.” On the basis of the attitudes of foreign governments, Alliance officials determined in 1930 not to send African Americans as missionaries.

Decisions regarding the place of black missionaries in the overseas work of the C&MA were undoubtedly also influenced in some degree by racial prejudices in sending countries as things like the Eugenics Movement took hold across academia and many segments and geographies in American society in the 1920's and 1930's. While whites felt the attitude of native populations overseas at that time precluded black missionaries from being sent, this signaled to the blacks that they were being deprived of full participation in what The Alliance held as its main purpose: missions.

Thankfully, about 50 years later, The Alliance sought to reestablish some of the dynamics that would once again encourage an expanded role for African Americans in this movement.
So, our Alliance Black History is both inspiring and instructive. Kingdom Justice is not something that is achieved, it must be lived out.  

Adapted from by Samuel Stoesz, which was itself an adaptation of the article first published as “Ebony Beams in the Foundation” in The Alliance Witness October 24, 1984. Additional reporting done by Martha Renaud, managing editor of Alliance Life.
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