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The church and the gift of Black history (Alban at Duke)

The annual celebration known as Black History Month began as “Negro History Week” in 1926. Historian Carter G. Woodson picked the timing for this commemorative week to coincide with the birthdates of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two figures who were greatly respected among African Americans in the early 20th century.

Today, Black History Month is recognized in schools and by some corporations. Congregations, especially in the West, also need to pay close attention to Black History Month – because Black history is church history.

The roots of Black history in Christianity extend well past 1619, when the first enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. In Acts 8, Philip evangelized an Ethiopian eunuch, who carried the gospel back to Ethiopia. In Mark 15:21, Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry Jesus’ cross. Cyrene was a city in eastern Libya, in north Africa. Moses’s wife Zipporah, according to Numbers 12, was from Cush, an ancient name for Africa.