Amanda Berry Smith: God’s Image In Ebony
by Michael Edds
Amanda Berry Smith was born as a slave in Long Green, Maryland near Baltimore in 1837. She was the oldest of thirteen children. To save her from being sold away from her family, her father worked many long late hours to buy her freedom. Amanda’s life was marked by loss and tragedy. Amanda’s first husband died during the Civil War, while serving in an African American military unit. She lost her second husband and all of her children except one to death. To survive, Amanda worked long hours into the night washing and ironing clothes. She had a passion to truly know God. She locked herself in her basement and told those close to her to not open the door. She was determined to know God or die. She came out of that basement shouting and with her heart’s desire.
Amanda had little education, however God blessed her with an incredible singing voice and a powerfully anointed preaching ability. She became well known in camp meetings throughout the nation. They called her “the Singing Pilgrim” and “God’s Image Carved in Ebony.” During her early thirties, Amanda began in preaching in New York City area, receiving inspiration at a local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. She became a charger member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1875, and was associated with the African American Women’s Clubs.
Before 1880 embarked on a twelve-year missionary trip through Europe, Asia, and Africa. Her faith was incredible. She went to the port in New York with her bags packed to leave for England as God had directed her. However, she had no money for the fare. As she stood there, a white Christian brother recognized her. He walked up to her and told her that God had directed him to give her something. He placed into her hands the exact amount needed for the passage to England! She had told no one but God of her need!! She spent eight years in Liberia and West Africa, establishing churches and temperance societies. She awed the nobility and populace of Great Britain with her incredible singing and powerful preaching. In India, she stopped an vicious mob attack by Hindus on Christian missionaries by dropping to her knees in the midst of the riot and praying. The mob instantly became silent and left.
She moved to Chicago in the late 1890’s. Amanda raised a large amount of funds to open one of the first orphan homes for African American children in America. During this time, Harvey, Illinois, was being developed and marketed by business friends of Dwight L. Moody as a community with high moral, religious, and temperance character. Smith’s purchased property there in 1895. Her orphan’s home opened in Harvey in 1899 and has the great honor of being Illinois’ first orphanage for African American children. Her ability to raise the necessary finances permitted the school and home to operate without government funding.
Amanda died in Florida in 1915. Christian businessmen and leaders had her body transported by train back to Chicago. One of the largest gatherings for a funeral in Chicago history was when the masses gathered to meet the arrival of her body back to Chicago. What an incredible life she lived!! She rose from slavery, poverty, rejection, loss, sorrow, hunger and loneliness to shake America, Great Britain, Liberia, and India for God. She was buried in Harvey, Illinois.
The great mantle of ministry that she carried was not buried with her. It was only placed on hold until a generation would be born that could relate to that mantle and pick it up. That generation now exists today. That mantle of ministry is about to be picked up and placed upon a chosen servant of God today to finish what Amanda started long ago!!!