It is the 10th of July 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1875.
it was the era of Queen Victoria and Otto Von Bismarck. It was a time of Reconstruction under President Ulysses S. Grant. The Gilded Age was in its infancy and the inventions of Bell and Edison, the phone and light bulb respectively, were about to revolutionize the world.
It was a golden age for literature. Works by Dostoyevsky, Henry James, Louisa May Alcott, George MacDonald would soon join the works of Mark Twain. His “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” would be finished this year. It is considered the first novel to be written on a typewriter.
Jean Calment was born in 1875. You might not think that the birth of a random Frenchwoman who led a normal life would be worth noting. Until you learn that she did not die until this author graduated high school… in 1997. She was 122 years old. Calment is considered the oldest person whose life and age are well documented. Her husband died in 1942. Prior to dying, he introduced her to smoking cigarettes after meals. She quit at the age of 117.
1875 also saw the passing of the Civil Rights Act. It was overturned by the Supreme Court. It would take 89 years for a version of the Civil Rights Act to finally be passed.
In 1875, former disgraced President Andrew Johnson died as did famed Danish author Hans Christian Anderson. In 1875, the golf phenom, Young Tom Morris, died at the age of 24. The St. Andrews born phenom had won four consecutive Open Championships by the time he was 21.
In 1875, Ibn Saud was born. He would be the first king and founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Humanitarian Albert Schweitzer was born in 1875.
And it was on this, the 10th of July in 1875 that Mary Mcleod Bethune was born. Bethune would become one of the most important African American women in Christian education. She would also hold leadership positions under Presidents Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, and Truman. Bethune was born the 15th of 17 children to her parents who were former slaves. Mary was the only of her siblings to attend school. When she was 10, the Board of Mission for Freedmen of the Trinity Presbyterian Church opened a school for African Americans. Mary would walk five miles each day to school and then return home to teach her parents and siblings to read and write.
As a young woman, she heard a pastor in Georgia speak on the need of missionaries to go to Africa. Soon after, Mary was offered a scholarship to Scotia Seminary in North Carolina.
After graduating, she then attended Moody Bible College where she spent time with D.L. Moody giving him descriptions of black life in the south. She was the only person of color amongst the 800 students at the college. Upon graduating, the Presbyterian missions board rejected Mary’s request to be sent to Africa as a missionary. The Mission Board’s rationale was that could not be a missionary to black people because she was herself black.
Mary then made it her mission to teach African American children in the United States. She taught in Georgia and in 1898 met the Methodist minister Albertus Bethune. The two were married and had one son.
In 1904 Mary Bethune opened the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls. She stated that she did so with one dollar and 50 cents in her pocket. But soon, James Proctor, of Proctor and Gamble fame, would become the school benefactor. The school grew and in 1923, she became the president of the newly formed Bethune-Cookman Collegiate Institute. Later renamed Bethune Cookman University, an HBCU in Daytona Beach, Florida. Mary McLeod Bethune would become the highest-ranking African American woman in the United States when she was asked to lead the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration under President Roosevelt.
Bethune spent her life in service to her community, her students, and to Christ who she believed brought dignity and salvation to all people. She died in 1955 of heart failure in her Daytona home. Born on this day in 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune was 70 years old.
The reading for today comes from Isaac Watts. This is his poem, “Behold What Wondrous Grace.”
1 Behold what wondrous grace
The Father hath bestowed
On sinners of a mortal race,
To call them sons of God!
2 Nor doth it yet appear
How great we must be made;
But when we see our Savior here,
We shall be like our Head.
3 If in my Father's love
I share a filial part,
Send down thy Spirit, like a dove,
To rest upon my heart.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 10th of July 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who has promised to start smoking cigarettes if he gets to 117, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.