Introductory 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.

Text First Published September 1998

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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