Welcome to this special edition of The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast. My name is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International.
In light of Black History Month, I want to share with you the biography of three of the most influential black Christians in history — George Washington Carver, a scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor; Rosa Parks, the woman who sparked the Civil Rights Movement, and Ralph David Abernathy, a preacher and civil rights leader.
The biographical information in this podcast comes from the book, “100 Most Influential Black Christians in History.” This book is available on Amazon Kindle for just $2.99. Click here to purchase.
First, let’s look at the life of George Washington Carver.
John 8:24 says, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
George Washington Carver said, “Our creator is the same and never changes despite the names given Him by people here and in all parts of the world. Even if we gave Him no name at all, He would still be there, within us, waiting to give us good on this earth.”
George Washington Carver, a U.S. agricultural chemist and agronomist, was born a slave in Diamond Grove, Missouri, around 1864. While he was a baby, he and his mother were kidnapped by raiders. His owner, Moses Carver, paid for their return, but only George was returned.
A frail child, George was late to talk but showed so great an interest in plants at an early age that neighbors brought him their problems with their plants. The Carvers taught him to read, write, and do math. When they could teach him no more, he decided that he would need to leave to find a school that would teach African-American students. He was about ten or twelve years old.
While working menial jobs, he worked on his education. He graduated from high school in his late twenties and earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Iowa State Agricultural College in 1896. Although he loved botany, Carver was a well-rounded student who excelled in music and art. Two of his paintings appeared in the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair. He participated in YMCA, debate, and the campus’ military regiment.
After graduation, Booker T. Washington invited George Washington Carver to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to be the director of agricultural research. Arriving at Tuskegee, he found that the agricultural department consisted of a barn, a cow, and some chickens. With the help of students, Carver scrounged and made tools and equipment. He taught farm management and programs on nutrition and health, even visiting farms and communities to help the people.
A devout Christian, Carver considered his laboratory “God’s little workshop.” He discovered that peanuts and soybeans would restore soil fertility, but farmers complained that they had no market for these products. To provide markets, Carver developed 300 products from peanuts and 118 from sweet potatoes. By 1940, peanuts had become the South’s second largest crop.
In 1916, he was honored by being appointed to the Royal Society of Arts in London. In 1923, he received the NAACP’s prestigious Spingarn Medal. In 1938, a feature film, Life of George Washington Carver, was made. Before his death in 1943, he received the Roosevelt Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Southern Agriculture. The Hall of Fame for Great Americans inducted him in 1977. The National Inventors Hall of Fame inducted him in 1990.
Carver’s dedication to God and his people led him to patent only three of his 500 agricultural inventions because he wanted his products to benefit all. He left his life savings to Tuskegee Institute.
Now, let’s look at the life of Rosa Parks, the woman who sparked the Civil Rights Movement.
Romans 10:9 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
Rosa Parks said, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
Rosa Louise Parks was nationally recognized as the “mother of the modern day civil rights movement” in America. Her refusal to surrender her seat to a white male passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus on December 1, 1955, triggered a wave of protests that reverberated throughout the United States. Her quiet, courageous act changed America, its view of black people, and redirected the course of history.
Mrs. Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. She was the first child of James and Leona Edwards McCauley. She had one brother, Sylvester, who was born August 20, 1915. Later, the family moved to Pine Level, Alabama, where Rosa was reared and educated in the rural school. When she completed her education in Pine Level at age eleven, her mother, Leona, enrolled her in Montgomery Industrial School for Girls (also known as Miss White’s School for Girls), a private institution. After finishing Miss White’s School, she went on to Alabama State Teacher’s College High School. She, however, was unable to graduate with her class, because of the illness and death of her grandmother Rose Edwards.
As Rosa Parks prepared to return to Alabama State Teacher’s College, her mother also became ill, therefore, she continued to take care of their home and care for her mother while her brother, Sylvester, worked outside of the home. She received her high school diploma in 1934 after her marriage to Raymond Parks on December 18, 1932. Raymond was born in Wedowee, Alabama, and received little formal education due to racial segregation. With the assistance of his mother, Geri Parks, he largely educated himself. His immaculate dress and his thorough knowledge of domestic affairs and current events made most people think he was college educated. He supported and encouraged Rosa’s desire to complete her formal education.
Mr. Parks was an early activist in the effort to free the “Scottsboro Boys,” a celebrated case in the 1930’s. Together, Raymond and Rosa worked in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People programs. He was an active member and she served as secretary and later youth leader of the local branch. At the time of her arrest, she was preparing for a major youth conference.
Mrs. Parks moved to Detroit, Michigan, in 1957. In 1964, she became a deaconess in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME).
Mrs. Parks received more than forty-three honorary doctorate degrees (including one from Soka University in Tokyo Japan), hundreds of plaques, certificates, citations, awards and keys to many cities. Among them are the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal, the UAW’s Social Justice Award, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, to name a few. In September 1996, President Bill Clinton gave Mrs. Parks the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given to an American civilian.
Mrs. Parks has written four books: Rosa Parks: My Story; Quiet Strength; Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue With Today’s Youth. Dear Mrs. Parks received the NAACP’s Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in 1996. Her latest book, I Am Rosa Parks, was written for preschoolers.
A quiet exemplification of courage, dignity, and determination, Rosa Parks was a symbol to all to remain free. Rosa Parks made her peaceful transition to Heaven on October 24, 2005.
Finally, let’s look at the life of Ralph David Abernathy, a preacher and civil rights leader.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Ralph David Abernathy said, “I don’t know what the future may hold, but I know who holds the future.”
Baptist preacher, Ralph D. Abernathy, was brought up on a farm in rural Alabama. In 1948, he was ordained as a Baptist minister and by 1951, led the First Baptist Church in Montgomery. In 1955, Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr. organized a boycott of the city’s bus system. The two later founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Abernathy graduated with a B.S. degree from Alabama State University in 1950. His interest then shifted from mathematics to sociology, and he earned an M.A. degree in the latter from Atlanta University in 1951. He met King a few years later when the latter became pastor of another Baptist church in the same city. In 1955–1956 the two men organized a boycott by black citizens of the Montgomery bus system that forced the system’s racial desegregation in 1956. This nonviolent boycott marked the beginning of the civil rights movement that was to desegregate American society during the following two decades.
King and Abernathy continued their close collaboration as the civil rights movement gathered momentum, and in 1957 they founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (with King as president and Abernathy as secretary-treasurer) to organize the nonviolent struggle against segregation throughout the South. In 1961, Abernathy relocated his pastoral activities to Atlanta, and that year he was named vice president at large of the SCLC and King’s designated successor there. He continued as King’s chief aide and closest adviser until King’s assassination in 1968, at which time Abernathy succeeded him as president of the SCLC. He headed that organization until his resignation in 1977, after which he resumed his work as the pastor of a Baptist church in Atlanta. His autobiography, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, appeared in 1989.
The biographical information in this podcast came from the book, 100 Most Influential Black Christians in History. This book is available on Amazon Kindle for just $2.99.
In closing, allow me to say that like many black Americans, I grew up in a very religious and church-going family, and during that time, I often heard the phrase “Being Saved.” Now, much of what church people said “being saved” was back then I now know is wrong according to the Bible. I wrote an article about it titled “On ‘Being Saved’ in Black America” which is available for you to read free of charge on our website, gospellightsociety.com. Right now, I want to share with you very briefly what the Bible says “being saved” really is.
First, understand that you need to be saved because you are a sinner. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Second, understand that a horrible punishment eternal Hell awaits those who are not saved. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus Christ said that God will say to those who are not saved, “depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Third, realize that God loves you very much and wants to save you from Hell. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you want to be saved from Hell and be guaranteed a home in Heaven, simply believe in Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose from the dead for your sins, and then call upon the Lord in prayer and ask Him to save your soul. And believe me, He will. Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Then you can sing in the words of the Old Negro spiritual:
Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty I’m free at last.
Until next time, may God richly bless you.
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in over twenty-five foreign countries. He is the author of over forty books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts/podcasts, which include: The Prayer Motivator Devotional, The Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report, the Second Coming Watch Update and the Soul-Winning Motivator, among others. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Theology degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for over twenty-seven years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.