The two Ellen G. White presentations, (I) "Our Duty
to the Colored People," read as an appeal to the leaders
of' the church in March, 1891, and (2) an article in the
Review and Herald, April 2, 1893, entitled "Work
Among the Colored People," established with clarity
and for all time the Seventhday Adventist recognition of
the brotherhood of mankind. Both statements were also aimed
at calling Seventhday Adventists to accept the responsibility
for a strong missionary "work among the colored people.
' These two points the church must not forget, nor can we
at any time hedge on them.
At the same time, Ellen White in both presentations recognized
that there was a certain risk involved, which might affect
the possibility of the church's fulfilling its mission.
She urged discretion and caution lest the cause of God be
hindered. Her one concern was that no steps should be taken
which would deter or block the heralding of the third angel's
message. She closed her urgent appeal with these words:
"We shall need to move with carefulness, being endowed
with wisdom from above. "--Review and Herald, April
2, 1895. p. 210.
Ellen White understood the significance of these words
better than did her readers. In vision she had received
information and instruction concerning the caution which
as the work developed we must exercise, but which for a
time she was not at liberty to disclose.
Premature delineation of this advance instruction might
blur in the minds of some the great principles that must
be forever made clear that, regardless of color or background,
all men are brothers.
In 1895, as we were launching a concerted, well organized
missionary work for the colored people in the deep South,
Seventhday Adventists in the Southern States in their resistance
to Sunday laws came to public attention. A number were imprisoned
for the violation of local or State Sunday ordinances. Some
were condemned to hard labor in chain gangs.
Many of our church members understood and applied literally
the words of the fourth commandment, "Six days shalt
thou labor" as requiring physical labor on Sunday that
would be apparent to their neighbors. The public press carried
the story. We too made the most of the persecution in our
journals, confident that in this we were doing God service.
Now the third angel's message was beginning to reach the
colored communities of the deep South. What should we teach
these people about Sunday work? The situation was freighted
with danger to the cause.
At a council meeting in Australia, November 20, 1895, the
matter was brought before Sister White, and she firmly drove
in certain stakes that saved the church from moves that
could lead to disaster, and in the enunciation of three
basic principles provided safe guidance. These were:
1. No one set of rules could be established to govern in
all places the work in such delicate matters. This was especially
so in the South.
2. It was not essential for us to perform physical work
publicly on Sunday as a sign of allegiance to God.
3. The hours of Sunday might well be spent in missionary
work, thus literally foiling the enemy.
She wrote that day a statement that was hurried to the
United States and soon appeared in a tract. In it she said,
"The light that the Lord has given me at different
times has been that the Southern field, where the greatest
share of the population of the colored race is, cannot be
worked after the same methods as other fields. "--Special
Testimonies to Ministers and Workers, No. 6, pp. 47,
48; also in The Southern Work, p. 98.
Coming then to the question of working on Sunday, she counseled:
"Should the colored people in the Southern States
be educated, as the" receive the truth, that they should
work on Sunday, there would be excited a most unreasonable
and unjust prejudice. Judges and jurors, lawyers and citizens,
would. if they had a chance, bring decisions which would
bind about them rites which would cause much suffering,
not only to the ones whom they term guilt)' of breaking
the laws of their State, but all the colored people everywhere
would be placed in a position of surveillance, and under
cruel treatment by the white people, that would be no less
than slavery. " --Special Testimonies to Ministers
and Workers, No 6, p. 48; also in The Southern
Work, p. 98.
And then she warned:
"Everything of a character to set them in a position
of opposition to authorities, as working on Sunday, would
cause the colored people great suffering, and cut off the
possibility of the white laborers' going among them; for
the workers that intended to do them good, would be charged
with raising insurrections.
"I do not want anything of this character to appear,
for I know the result. Tell them they need not provoke their
neighbors by doing work on Sunday; that this will not prevent
them from observing the Sabbath.
"Punishment for any offense would be visited unsparingly
and unmercifully upon the colored people. "--Special
Testimonies to Ministers and Workers, No. 6, pp. 48,
49; also in The Southern Work, p. 99.
In the cautions she sounded, we find these:
"There is not to be one word uttered which would stir
up the slumbering enmity and hatred of the [former] slaves
against discipline and order, or to present before them
the injustice that has been done them.
"Nothing can be done at first in making the Sabbath
question prominent, and if the colored people are in any
way educated to work on Sunday, there will be unsparing,
merciless oppression brought upon them. "
--Special Testimonies to Ministers and Workers, No.
6, p. 50; also in The Southern Work, p. 101.
Ellen White saw clearly that such ill advised moves on
the part of Seventhday Adventists as counseling the colored
people to engage publicly in physical work on Sunday would
precipitate a time of crisis prematurely and close the way
for the proclamation of the third angel's message to all
classes of people. And she declared:
"The final issue of the Sabbath question has not yet
come, and by prudent actions we may bring on a crisis before
the time. "--The Southern Work, p. 136.
Ellen White's counsels were accepted. The precious work
was thus guarded and the way kept open to herald the message
among both races in the South. Families moved into the South
to respond to Ellen White's advice, given in 1895:
"The most successful methods are to encourage families
who have a missionary spirit, to settle in the Southern
States, and work with the people without making any noise.
Schools should be started by families coming into the South.
"--Special Testimonies to Ministers and Workers, No.
6, p. 52; also in The Southern Work, pp. 103, 104.
"Not a word should be spoken to create prejudiced,
for if by any careless or impulse speech to the colored
people in regarded to the whites any prejudice is created
in their minds against the whites, or in the minds of the
whites against them, the spirit of the enemy will work in
the children of disobedience."--The Southern Work,
Again and again Ellen White sounded cautions aimed at guarding
against any moves that might lead prejudiced people to hinder
the work of God in a field where the doors could be so easily
closed. On June 5, 1899, she wrote:
has been raised concerning the source and circulation of
The Southern Work, a booklet of early years. All
the materials appearing in its 147 pages were from the pen
of Ellen G. White. The several articles comprising its content
were assembled by her son J. E. White as he pioneered the
work along the Mississippi River in the South, and were
printed in 1898 on his missionary boat The Morning Star.
He issued this
booklet as a means of appealing to Seventh-day Adventists
to work among the large population of Negroes who were barely
a generation out of Americas shameful system of slavery.
It sets forth certain counsels and cautions relating to
that work. The heart of the booklet is constituted of the
nine articles Mrs. White published as a series in the Review
and Herald in 1895 and 1896. About the year 1901 supplementary
pages were added consisting of messages of counsel and caution
to workers laboring in the Southern States.
As Ellen G.
White set forth her appeals, within twenty-five or thirty
years of the proclamation of the emancipation of the slaves,
she made frequent reference to the conditions among the
colored population at the time she wrote. The depiction
of the state of affairs then existing does not describe
conditions as they are today. Great changes have taken place
in the status of the Negro American.
as they appear in this booklet also present the neglect
by the church up to that time of the work it should be doing
for this our largest ethnic minority. These messages brought
about a change and a well-organized, strong work has been
done and continues to be done, as is attested to by the
more than 50.000 members of Negro ancestry who are currently
in numerous churches across the nation.
The Southern Work. has its primary value today
as a part of the historical record, and it should be read
in its historical context with an understanding of the times
in which it was published. This booklet has just been reprinted
and is obtainable through your Book and Bible House.
"It is the prejudice of the white against the black
race that makes this field hard, very hard. The field is
one that needs to be worked with the greatest discretion.
The relation of the two races has been a matter hard to
deal with, and I fear that it will ever remain a most perplexing
problem"--Ibid. , pp. 117, 118.
And she reminded the church again in an article published
in the Review and Herald of October 24, 1899. page
"In Christ Jesus we are one. By the utterance of one
name, 'Our Father,' we are lifted to the same rank. We become
members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King
His principles of truth bind heart to heart, be they rich
or poor, high or low.
"When the Holy Spirit moves upon human minds, all
petty complaints and accusations between man and his fellow
man will be put away. The bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness
'will shine into the chambers of the mind and heart. In
our worship of God there will be no distinction between
rich and poor, white and black. All prejudice will be melted
away. When we approach God, it will be as one brotherhood.
We are pilgrims and strangers, bound for a better country,
even a heavenly. There all pride, all accusation, all self
deception, will forever have an end Every mask will be laid
aside, and we shall see him as lie is ' There our songs
will catch the inspiring theme, and praise and thanksgiving
will go up to God. "
Testimonies for the Church, volume 7, was published
in the year 1902. It contained counsels regarding the need
of the Southern field, and again the church was reminded
of the common brotherhood of one segment of the human family
to another segment. Note these words: "
The Lord has looked with sadness upon that most pitiful
of all sights, the colored race in slavery. He desires us
in our work for them, to remember their providential deliverance
from slavery, their common relationship to u5 by creation
and by redemption, and their right to the blessings of freedom"--Page
Of that potentiality of these people, she observed:
"The colored people deserve more from the hands of
the white people than they have received. There are thousands
who have minds capable of cultivation and uplifting. With
proper labor, many who have been looked upon as hopeless
'will become educators of their race. Through the grace
of God the race that the enemy has for generations oppressed
may rise to the dignity' of God given manhood and womanhood"--Ibid.