In respect for Black History month I wanted to celebrate a woman of colour who was a fearless woman of God.
Amanda Berry Smith (January 23, 1837 – February 24, 1915) was a former slave who became an inspiration to thousands of women, both black and white. She was born in Long Green, Maryland, a small town in Baltimore County.
Growing up, Amanda had the advantage of learning to read and write. Her father made it a regular practice on Sunday mornings to read to his family from the Bible. Her mother helped her to learn reading before she was eight and was sent to school. Schooling at this age did not last for long, around three months. Then at the age of 13, they had been given another option of attending school. However, they would only be taught if there was time after the teachers gave the white kids their lesson. After two weeks of attending school, they dropped out and were taught at home by their parents. With only having three and a half months of formal schooling, Amanda went to work near York, Pennsylvania, as the servant of a widow with five children. While there, she attended a revival service at the Methodist Episcopal Church
She worked hard as a cook and a washerwoman to provide for herself and her daughter after her husband was killed in the American Civil War. Prayer became a way of life for her as she trusted God for shoes, the money to buy her sisters freedom and food for her family. She became well known for her beautiful voice and inspired teaching and hence, opportunities to evangelize in the South and West opened up for her.
African American women struggled with receiving the respect they deserved even if they dressed the part and as a lady. This was due to “Shadowed stereotypes bred in slavery of wanton Jezebels and pious Mammies…” African American women in the nineteenth century took the way they dressed very serious and so did others. If they dressed any way out of their respective outfit, judgments would be made against them. These women did not want others to forejudge them from their appearances or perceive them negatively. The stereotypes of being a Jezebel or Mammie were a few of the characteristics of how others seen the African American women population. They were either Jezebels, women with high sexual appetites; or Mammies, a-sexual women who was thick with big breasts and large buttocks.
In 1876, she was invited to speak and sing in England travelling on a first class cabin provided by her friends. The captain invited her to conduct a religious service on board and she was so modest that the other passengers spread word of her and resulted in her staying in England and Scotland for a year and a half. She next traveled to and ministered in India, then spent eight years in Africa working with churches and evangelizing.
As a strong proponent of the Temperance Movement both in Africa and in the United States, she was invited by noted temperance advocate Rev. Dr. Theodore Ledyard Cuyler to preach at his Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn New York, then the largest church in its denomination.
She funded ‘The Amanda Smith Orphanage and Industrial Home for Abandoned and Destitute Coloured Children’. It was an institution for ‘the poor and friendless coloured children in a suburban neighbourhood’ in Chicago. The institution provided a home for children to become self-reliant. Amanda traveled many states to help gather money to support her work. Support for this institution depended on interracial cooperation for fund-raising. She soon met conflict with the orphanage due to many problems such as financial, a fire that destroyed the building, conflict between Smith and the staff, complaints from neighbors, and failed inspections by the orphan home investigators.
Her autobiography was published in 1893.
Amanda Smith retired to Sebring, Florida in 1912 due to failing health. She died in 1915 at the age of 78.
A woman with courage and valour that demanded a better life for herself and for others. A woman of God who knew the only way to live is to depend fully on Her Heavenly Father. Women such as Amanda have paved the way for, not just women of colour, but all women of God to follow their callings. God bless this woman! She stored her riches in heaven and will be reaping the rewards.
Reference: Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanda_Smith) Amanda Berry-Smith.