When everything in life seems to fight against family life, where do we find family unity? We uncover amazing examples of unity even through tragedy in the narratives of The Heroes of Black Church History.
Deep and Fond Affection
It has become something of a cliché to imagine that black families today find it difficult to experience stability because of a long history of instability caused by slavery and racism. While not at all minimizing the obstacles that enslaved African American families have faced, history paints a truer and more optimistic picture of their response.
Though everything fought against them, enslaved African Americans battled gallantly to maintain family cohesion—a cohesion that provided a sturdy platform from which to handle life courageously.
Communicating the message of African American family love was so important to the Reverend Thomas Jones that he bore witness to it on the very first page of his narrative.
“I can testify, from my own painful experience, to the deep and fond affection which the slave cherishes in his heart for his home and its dear ones. We have no other tie to link us to the human family, but our fervent love for those who are with us and of us in relations of sympathy and devotedness, in wrongs and wretchedness.”
Satan longs to blind African Americans to their legacy of family love. He wants all of us to believe that hardships make it too hard to love. Jones’ family and millions like them, belie that lie.
Pulling the Rope in Unison
Enslaved African American couples sustained strong marital relationships. Venture Smith was born in Dukandarra, in Guinea, about 1729. Kidnapped at age eight, Robertson Mumford purchased him a year later. After living with Mumford for thirteen years, Venture married Meg at age twenty-two. They remained together for over forty-seven years, through many trials and tribulations, until parted by death.
Venture’s narrative contains an explanation for their marital faithfulness. On the occasion of their marriage, Venture threw a rope over his cabin and asked his wife to go to the opposite side and pull on the rope hanging there while he remained and pulled on his end. After they both had tugged at it awhile in vain, he called her to his side of the cabin and by their united effort they drew the rope to themselves with ease. He then explained the object lesson to his young bride.
“If we pull in life against each other we shall fail, but if we pull together we shall succeed.”
Premarital couples, newlyweds, and seasoned married spouses would all do well to heed Venture’s guiding wisdom. In fact, singles trying to get along with friends, co-workers trying to build a strong team, and churches trying to remain unified in Christ would all be wise to follow Venture Smith’s powerful example.
Join the Conversation
What hardships can you overcome in Christ to love others like Christ? In what situations do you need to pull the rope in unison to experience harmony in Christ?
Note: This series for Black History Month is excerpted from Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care. To learn more and to read a sample chapter visit Beyond the Suffering.