Editor's note:

May this hand­ful of thumb­nail char­ac­ter sketch­es from an appen­dix in Streams of Liv­ing Water invite you to explore more deeply each move­ment and figure.

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Streams of Living Water

Abo­li­tion Move­ment (18th cen­tu­ry to the present)

The Quak­er exam­ple of free­ing slaves and their cam­paign to ban slav­ery awak­ened the con­science of two key fig­ures: William Wilber­force in Eng­land and William Lloyd Gar­ri­son in the Unit­ed States. With oth­er reform­ers Wilber­force, a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, worked unstint­ing­ly to abol­ish slav­ery in the British Empire. It hap­pened in two stages: a bill out­law­ing the slave trade was passed in 1807, and in 1833 slav­ery itself was abol­ished. In the Unit­ed States Gar­ri­son pub­lished the anti­slav­ery news­pa­per The Lib­er­a­tor, which brought the issue before a wide audi­ence. He was joined in his anti­slav­ery efforts by many oth­ers, includ­ing Levi Cof­fin, James Rus­sell Low­ell, John Green­leaf Whit­ti­er, Wen­dell Philipps, Lucre­tia Mott, and freed slaves James Forten, Robert Purvis, Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, and Sojourn­er Truth. Sad­ly, it took a Civ­il War, the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion, untold deaths, and the pas­sage of the Thir­teenth Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion to end slav­ery. Most of the activ­i­ty to ban slav­ery dur­ing the eigh­teenth and nine­teenth cen­turies took place in the U.S. and Eng­land, but now move­ments to ban it world­wide are arising.

Truth, Sojourn­er (or Isabel­la Van Wage­nen) (c. 1797 – 1883

Isabel­la Van Wage­nen was born from below as a slave in New York (Unites States). In 1843, in her mid­dle years, she was born from above as a child of God. She then took a new name — Sojourn­er Truth — and hit the road as an itin­er­ant preach­er. High­ly intel­li­gent, though with no for­mal edu­ca­tion, Truth had great pres­ence. She was tall, some 5 feet 11 inch­es, of spare but sol­id frame. Her voice was low, … and her singing voice was pow­er­ful­ly beau­ti­ful. No one ever for­got the pow­er and pathos of Sojourn­er Truth’s singing, just as her wit and orig­i­nal­i­ty of phras­ing were also of last­ing remem­brance. … Truth was first and last an itin­er­ant preach­er. From the late 1840s through the late 1870s, she trav­eled the Amer­i­can land, denounc­ing slav­ery and slavers, advo­cat­ing free­dom, women’s rights, woman suf­frage, and temperance.”

Tub­man, Har­ri­et (Moses) (c. 1820 – 1913

A gen­er­a­tion younger than Sojourn­er Truth, Har­ri­et Tub­man was born a slave in Mary­land (Unit­ed States), mar­ried a free man, and escaped and went to Philadel­phia via the Under­ground Rail­road in 1849. Hav­ing vowed to return and assist oth­er slaves, she went back one year lat­er; over the next ten years she helped over three hun­dred peo­ple gain their free­dom. Dur­ing the Civ­il War she served as a Union army nurse, scout, and spy, still help­ing count­less slaves escape to free­dom via the Under­ground Rail­road. Return­ing to New York after the war, Tub­man raised mon­ey for black schools and estab­lished a home for needy and elder­ly blacks. She and Sojourn­er Truth are America’s most famous nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry African-Amer­i­can women.

Amer­i­can Civ­il Rights Move­ment (20th cen­tu­ry to the present) 

Passed after the Civ­il War, the Thir­teenth Amend­ment to the Unit­ed States Con­sti­tu­tion abol­ished slav­ery; the Four­teenth Amend­ment gave African-Amer­i­can men their cit­i­zen­ship; the Fif­teenth Amend­ment pro­hib­it­ed the states from deny­ing any man the right to vote based on race. Though social and polit­i­cal equal­i­ty was cod­i­fied, the real­i­ty was much dif­fer­ent: blacks were denied basic rights by fiat and forced to con­tend with assigned seat­ing in pub­lic places (always at the back or least desir­able loca­tion), col­ored” restrooms and water foun­tains, exclu­sion from social clubs and top-lev­el jobs, and (in the South) extra restric­tions attached to vot­ing. The con­tem­po­rary move­ment toward cor­rect­ing these injus­tices start­ed in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion of Tope­ka that seg­re­ga­tion in pub­lic schools was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al — hence all sep­a­rate but equal” and exclu­sion­ary prac­tices against women, the dis­abled, racial groups, and more were open to challenge.

Parks, Rosa (19132005)

In 1955 Rosa Parks, some­times called the moth­er of the mod­ern civ­il rights move­ment, refused to fol­low the con­ven­tion of seg­re­gat­ed bus-rid­ing. Blacks were expect­ed to pay their fare at the front door of the bus and then exit, enter­ing again through the rear to find a seat. Rosa Parks entered, paid her fare, and then sat down in the front; and she refused to give her seat up to a white man when asked to by the dri­ver. Her action against injus­tice in Mont­gomery, Alaba­ma (Unit­ed States), spurred peo­ple of con­science to protest the denial of rights to African-Amer­i­cans, and it con­tin­ues to be an exam­ple of how one per­son can inspire pos­i­tive, last­ing change.

King, Mar­tin Luther, Jr. (19291968)

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955, her action inspired the African-Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion of Mont­gomery, Alaba­ma (Unit­ed States), to boy­cott city bus­es. Last­ing about a year (until seg­re­ga­tion on pub­lic trans­porta­tion was ruled uncon­sti­tu­tion­al by the Supreme Court), the bus boy­cott spawned the civ­il rights move­ment. Mar­tin Luther King, Jr., became that movement’s most vis­i­ble leader. A Bap­tist min­is­ter from Atlanta, Geor­gia, he adopt­ed the non­vi­o­lent protest approach used by Mahat­ma Gand­hi in gain­ing India’s free­dom from Eng­land and led numer­ous protests before his assassination.

Fos­ter, Richard J.. Streams of Liv­ing Water: Cel­e­brat­ing the Great Tra­di­tions of Christ (p. 273). Harper­Collins. Kin­dle Edition.

Originally published September 1998

Starting Soon: The 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion not just infor­ma­tion. Runs Sep­tem­ber 2020 through May 2021.

Learn More >