Swift, David Everett. Black prophets of justice: activist clergy before the Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.
PHS call number: BR 563 .N4 S97 1989
See especially the passages on Samuel Cox (pages 54-55, 66-68, 73), Samuel Cornish (pages 1-6, 24-27, 59-66) , Peter Williams (pages 60-69), James Pennington (pages 204-210, 267, 268), and Henry Highland Garnet (pages 113-117, 332-335). For information on Absalom Jones, you may refer to Gary B. Nash’s Forging Freedom (1988), pages 111-119 and pages 188-190.
David E. Swift (1914-2001) was a professor of religion at Wesleyan University for almost 30 years, and also taught briefly at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the first degree-granting historically black college in the United States. Swift, who was white, was a conscientious objector during World War II and joined Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Freedom Riders in 1961 to protest racial segregation on interstate transportation. Swift’s Black Prophets of Justice follows six African American clergymen who fought for emancipation and equality for African Americans, both from the pulpit and through community organizing efforts.
1. Who is the author of this source? Is it a reliable source? Why or why not?
2. What was Samuel Cox’s connection to Samuel Cornish (page 55)?
3. What reason did Samuel Cox give for rescinding his support for the American Colonization Society in 1834 (page 66)? What effect did this public rejection have on the colonization movement?
4. What was Samuel Cornish’s rebuttal to pro-colonization arguments (page 27)? What effect did his writing have on public opinion?
5. Why did James Pennington write an autobiography, The Fugitive Blacksmith (pages 204, 205)? What effect did this book have on public opinion about slavery?
6. Why did Pennington not take the Presbyterian Church to task for its involvement in the slave system (pages 267, 268)?
7. What central message did Garnet convey in his 1865 sermon after passage of the Thirteenth Amendment (pages 332, 333)?