February is “Black History Month” and indeed among the many famous African Americans are people of faith who “turned the world upside down” because of their commitment to the gospel and the freedom and equality it proclaims. One such famous African American was Harry Hoosier (1750-1806). He was born into slavery in Fayetteville, NC and eventually ended up working on a farm in Perry Hall, Maryland. He was converted to the Christian faith through the witness of the wife of the farm owner. He began preaching at the chapel that was built on the farm. Francis Asbury, the first bishop of Methodism came to preach at this farm and met Harry. Harry was freed from slavery and began traveling with Asbury and many of the early circuit riders. He was the first African American to receive a license to preach. Harry drew large crowds when he preached and journals of the circuit riders report that he converted nearly 10,000 souls during his traveling ministry that took him from NY to NC. He would preach late into the night sometimes in order to accommodate the work schedules of the slaves. Harry never learned how to read or write but he preached totally from memory. His favorite text was the Jesus cursing the fig tree that did not bear fruit. He preached boldly for people to renounce the sin of slavery and racism.
Harry Hoosier taught the world that God uses best those who are willing to serve and are humble. Harry’s preaching had a lot to do with the spreading of Scriptural Holiness in the areas of EPA and Pen-Del. Now it is our turn to keep telling people about Jesus…keep inviting people to become disciples….keep boldly speaking in favor of justice and equality.
Bishop Peggy A. Johnson