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Episode 6: A Better Way - Part 2

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

A group of black students, four women and two men, enjoying a picnic in the forest
Oakwood College (now a university) students enjoying a picnic, circa 1920s. Oakwood University is a historically black university (HBCU) commissioned and run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Many prominent Adventist figures, preachers and administrators have attended Oakwood University. Photo courtesy of the Center for Adventist Research.

In our last episode, A Better Way - Part 1, we learned of the strong connection between Adventism and the Abolitionist Movement. So it's no surprise that after the American Civil War, Adventist churches were some of the very first to integrate.

But by the 1920s, the landscape of the Adventist church was extremely segregated. The General Conference had separate cafeterias for white and black employees; Black Adventist leadership was regularly denied seats at the table where important decisions were being made; and it wasn't until 1965 that Southern Adventist University officially desegregated - ten years after Brown vs. Board of Education, and five years after six-year-old Ruby Bridges marched with police protection into an all-white school, signaling the beginning of desegregation in public schools.

How did we get from abolition to segregation?

Guests: Dr. Calvin B. Rock, Claudia Allen, Pedrito Maynard-Reid, Kevin Burton, and Michael Campbell.


Dive Deeper

Article | #ItisTimeAU - Andrews University Response

After the release of the "It is Time AU" video mentioned in Episode 5: A Better Way Pt. 1, Andrews University responded with a speech of apology by University President Dr. Andrea Luxton called "A Journey to Healing and Understanding."

Andrews University also detailed five commitments and next steps it would take to further healing, reconciliation, and equality on its campus.

You can listen to Dr. Luxton's speech and read about the five commitments on the official It Is Time page on the Andrews University website.

Book | Protest and Progress: Black Adventist Leadership and the Push for Parity by Dr. Calvin B. Rock

This book is the definitive text on the struggle of Black Adventist leadership and parity within the Adventist church. Author Dr. Calvin B. Rock details early Black Adventist history starting after the Civil War and brings us to today, taking the reader every step of the way along the 'push for parity."

Dr. Rock has served the church in many capacities - as a pastor, conference administrator, Oakwood University President, and General Conference Vice President. He combines his pastoral heart, insider knowledge church administrative process, and personal lived experience to show the complex history and legacy of Regional Conferences and Adventism and race.

This book is at the very top of our suggested reading list for all Adventists - especially those in North America.

Book | Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church's Complicity in Racism by Jamar Tisby

Similar to our two episodes, this book traces the story of the American Christianity and it's relationship with white supremacy, from the era of slavery to today.

This book is important for understanding the larger Christian influences that impacted Adventism in the post-Civil War and post-WWI eras, and how that contributed to our drift into fundamentalist approaches to race.

This book is at the top of our recommended reading list for American Christians and Adventists.

Documentary Series | The Wound from The Haystack

In this three-part documentary series, filmmaker Andrew Ashley dives even deeper into the complex history of Adventism and race, and what needs to happen to heal this "wound" -

He interviews historians, pastors, theologians, and students about the conversations around race and reconciliation in Adventism.

Book | Lewis Sheafe: Apostle to Black America by Douglas Morgan

This biography by historian Douglas Morgan details the history of Lewis Sheafe's ministry and impact on Black America and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

From the description:

"Sheafe saw in the Adventist message the tenets of race relations he already championed, and he embraced it wholeheartedly. He was sent to lead the Black work in Washington, D.C., in 1902, and his evangelistic campaigns drew standing-room-only crowds of both Black and White listeners.

But during his turbulent years of Adventist ministry, he and church leaders could not agree on how to apply biblical principles of racial equality. The conflict eventually proved fatal to his ties with the denomination.

In this gripping biography, Douglas Morgan pieces together the life of this forgotten leader whose story sheds light on the reason that no lasting, separate Black Adventist denomination ever formed."


Black Adventist History

Black Adventist history is Adventist History. Here are some important historical figures and moments.

Article | "A Spiritual Giant Among Us": Charles Bradford, First NAD President, First African American NAD President, Passes to His Rest - NAD News Article

For nearly a hundred years, North America wasn't a Division - it simply was housed under the General Conference, led by a GC vice president with responsibility for North America.

In 1979, Charles Bradford, who had been serving as the associate secretary for the General Conference, was elected to serve as the President for the brand new North American Division. He led the Adventist church into a new chapter, and his legacy as an Adventist leader is felt to this day.

Article | Lucille Byard by Benjamin Baker - ESDA

As detailed in Episode 6, Lucille Byard's death was a catalyst for the creation of Regional Conferences.

Lucille's legacy, while tragic, forced the Adventist church to face its complicity within racist systems and the prejudice within its own walls.

Article | Allegheny Conference by Douglas Morgan - ESDA

Allegheny Conference was one of the first Regional Conferences, commissioned by the General Conference Committee on April 10, 1944. Read about the early years of the conference and subsequent expansion of missional efforts within the Allegheny Conference territory.

Article | Black Unions by Calvin B. Rock - ESDA

We weren't able to discuss the Black Union debate on on Episode episode, but Dr. Calvin B. Rock details the fight for Black Unions as the next chapter in the "push for parity" in his book "Protest and Progress. This article offers a condensed version of the history.

Article | Geneva Bryan by DeWitt S. Williams - ESDA

Geneva Bryan was a nurse, teacher, and the first African American woman to serve as a General Conference departmental officer.

Article | Mary Britton by Courtney L. Thompson - ESDA

Mary Britton was a teacher, journalist, physician and social activist.

She became the first African American licensed to do medicine in Lexington, Kentucky, a rarity due to both her race and gender.

Article | Franklin Henry Bryant by Kevin L. Morgan - ESDA

Franklin Henry Bryant lived aboard Edson White's Morning Star in his youth, and later went on to become the first African American Adventist to publish a book, and the first African American to earn a law degree from the University of Colorado.

Article | Eva Dykes by DeWitt S. Williams - ESDA

Eva Dykes was the first African American woman in the United States to receive a Ph.D. She taught at both Howard University and Oakwood college.

Dykes was also an instrumental part of the organized protest movement that eventually catalyzed the creation of Regional Conferences.

Article | Arna Bontemps by Derek C. Bowe - ESDA

Arna Bontemps was an American author and scholar active during the Harlem Renaissance. He was friends with Langston Hughes and served as librarian at Oakwood University.

He eventually left the Seventh-day Adventist Church over frustration over racism and his perception that Adventism was closed off to using fictional literature.


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