Too often African American church leaders have been written out of books on church history, especially denominational history.
As a Baptist, I’m outraged at the exclusion of the contribution of African American Baptists in many our the textbooks that I read and see on Baptist History.
Well, I want to change that here on this blog. From time to time, I will be featuring African American denominational leaders, beginning with Rev. Walter H. Brooks, D.D.:
Rev. Walter H. Brooks, D. D., has a very unusual and interesting history. He was born a slave In Richmond, Va., August 30, 1851, his parents belonging to different masters. In 1859 his mother’s master died, and arrangements were made to sell her and her six children, she being allowed to select a purchaser if she could find one.
Through a white friend his father bought Dr. Brooks’ mother, together with two of the youngest children. Walter H. Brooks and an elder brother were bought by a large tobacco manufacturing firm in Richmond, In 1861 the breaking out of the war affected the tobacco trade, and many of the tobacconists were obliged, to sell or hire out their slaves. Walter and his brother David were hired by their mother, who, each quarter of the year, managed to pay the amount agreed upon. For the next three years both of the boys worked, thereby aiding their mother in paying their hire.
After the war Walter H. Brooks, for a short time, attended a primary school in Richmond, taught by a young lady from the North. In October, 1866, he had received one year’s instruction when he went to Lincoln University, Chester County, Pa. He remained there seven years, graduating In 1872, and then entered a theological class for one year. During the second year of his seminary life he was converted and became, an elder in the Presbyterian Church. He expected to become a Presbyterian preacher,but in 1873 his ideas having made him a subject to baptism, he joined the First African Baptist Church of Richmond, Va. For a short time he was a clerk in the post office at Richmond, Va., but In 1874, having resigned his position, he entered the service of the American Baptist Publication Society In the State of Virginia. Having been ordained in December, 1876, in April, 1877, he accepted the pastorship of the second Baptist Church of Richmond, Va., where he succeeded in paying off the entire debt of the church. In June, 1880, he was sent as a delegate for the Virginia Baptist State Convention to the Baptist General Association In session at Petersburg, and he was the first Colored delegate received by that body.
In September, 1880 he resigned the charge of the church and went to New Orleans, La., to commence work in the American Baptist Publication Society’s employ, but his wife’s failing health caused him to return to Virginia in 1882. In November, 1882, he was called to the pastorship of the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church of Washington, D C., where he has been ever since. Roger Williams University, Nashville, Tenn., and State University, Louisville, Ky., both honored him with the title of Doctor of Divinity; while his alma mater, in June, 1883, conferred upon him the degree of M. A.
Recently he was elected a trustee of the United Society of Christian, Endeavor, to represent the Colored Baptists of the world. Dr. Brooks has distinguished himself as a temperance advocate, and for a number of years has been the Chaplain of the Anti-Saloon League of the District of Columbia. His article, printed some years since in the “National Baptist” of Philadelphia, Pa., on “George Liele, the Black Apostle,” and his more recent paper on the “Beginnings of Negro Churches in America,” have won for him many praises.
For twenty-eight years Dr. Brooks has been in public life, and his power as a speaker still gives him a commanding influence in the pulpit and on the platform. Dr. Brooks married Miss Eva Holmes, of the family of Rev. James H. Holmes, of Richmond, Va., and this union resulted In the birth of ten children-eight of whom are living, four boys and four girls-the oldest born being 27 years of age, the youngest four years. (Source)
For the most part, during times of oppression through inhumane slavery, their faith is all the slaves had to keep them going.
Their story, through their faith, must continue to be told.