Though her baptism by Smith is questioned by some historians, it is generally accepted that Sojourner Truth was acquainted with Advent teachings and accepted the Sabbath. She knew Ellen White, John Byington, Dr. J. H. Kellogg, and other prominent church leaders. She spoke at the Battle Creek Sanitarium and several other church gatherings. Her grave is in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek, near the White family burial place.
The Southern Missionary Society (logo shown) was the organizing body for the Black work until it merged with the Southern Union Conference in 1901.
William Ellis Foy, a Black minister, received visions prior to Hazen Foss and Ellen White. As a girl, Ellen White heard Foy speak in Portland, Maine, and later talked with him after receiving her first visions. She had a copy of Foy's four visions. She remarked, concerning his experience, "It was remarkable testimonies that he bore" (Manuscript Releases, vol. 17. p. 96).
Foy had a prophetic ministry of approximately two years (1842-1844), which was primarily targeted to early Adventist believers.
Black people in the Millerite movement played a significant part in the preaching of the soon coming of Christ. Prominent ministers such as William Still, Charles Bowles, William Foy, and John Lewis were coworkers with Millerite leaders William Miller, Joshua V. Hirnes, and others. Other prominent Black persons, including Frederick Douglass, were also acquainted with the Second Coming and other Advent teachings.
Charles Kinney, sometimes referred to as the father of Black Adventism, is believed to have been the first Black ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister. In Reno, Nevada, Kinney accepted the Adventist truth as a result of the preaching of John Loughborough and Ellen White. A colporteur, then preacher and evangelist, Kinney was ordained in 1889.
Kinney had a deep burden for his people. In an 1885 issue of the Review and Herald, he wrote: "I earnestly ask the prayers of all who wish to see the truth brought 'before many peoples...,' that I may have strength, physical, mental, and spiritual, to do what I can for the Colored people."
The concept of Black conferences was first suggested by Kinney when confronted by efforts to segregate him and his members at a camp meeting on the day of his ordination. He advocated Black conferences as a way to work more effectively among Blacks and to help ease the racial tensions in the church. By the time of his death he saw the Black membership in North America increase to more than 26,000.
Consistent growth of first Black churches. Edgefield Junction, Tennessee, became the location for the first Black Seventh-day Adventist church (1886), pastored by Harry Lowe, formerly a Baptist minister. The second Black Adventist congregation was established in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1890 with A. Barry as its first pastor. The third Black Adventist church was established in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 1891. The fourth was established by C. M. Kinney in New Orleans in 1892. The fifth was organized in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1894. The first three and fifth churches were established in what is now the South Central Conference. The fourth church was established in what is now the Southwest Region Conference.
Ellen White stridently opposed slavery in all forms. Based on the principle of texts such as Deuteronomy 23:15, she advocated that Adventists violate the Fugitive Slave Law, which demanded the return of a runaway slave. In 1859 she wrote: "The law of our land requiring us to deliver a slave to his master, we are not to obey; and we must abide the consequences of violating this law" (Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 202). Later, in 1861, she received the historic vision at Roosevelt, New York, that revealed the horrible curse and degradation of slavery. She declared that God was bringing judgment against America for "the high crime of slavery," and that God "will punish the South for the sin of slavery and the North for so long suffering its overreaching and overbearing influence" (ibid., p. 264).
Leaders developed resources to direct the Black work. Primary among the resources were and are The Southern Work (a book first published in 1898 and 1901 aboard the Morning Star, and reissued in 1966), by Edson White, and Testimonies for the Church, volumes 7 (1902) and 9 (1909), by Ellen White.
Workers in the Southeastern Union Conference in 1924.
While by no means exhaustive (Ellen White literally has hundreds of pages of not-in-print materials concerning the Black work), these books contain messages that helped shape the Black work. Though these publications may contain statements that can be problematic when read out of context, they clearly indicate that Black church work was a priority with Ellen White.