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Smith, Amanda Berry - Timeline Biography

Time Period

01-23-1837 - 02-24-1915

Description

Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915) was a self-taught itinerant evangelist, Methodist missionary to Africa, author, representative of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, founding member of the NAACP and founder of an orphanage for Black children in Chicago. Known for her capacity to draw large crowds with her preaching, even in such disparate places as England, Calcutta, and Liberia. Smith also wrote a bestselling autobiography, the proceeds of which she used to start an orphanage in Chicago. A founding member of the NAACP, Amanda Berry Smith was one of many successful and influential Black women leaders of the 19th century.

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Methodist Events and People

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Narrative

Raised into slavery in Maryland, Amanda Berry (1837-1915) was one of 14 children. Her father bought his own freedom and that of his children when Amanda was young. At the age of seventeen, she married her husband, Calvin Devine. After her husband died in the Civil War, Amanda moved to Philadelphia, where she met and married James Smith, an ordained deacon at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. After James’ death, she began itinerating as a holiness evangelist, speaking in churches and camp meetings, often in conjunction with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. As one observer noted, her "simple, Quaker-like dress and scoop bonnet, together with a rich contralto voice with which she would break into song when inspired, made her a person not easily forgotten."

In July 1872, she attended a church missions day where missionaries from India, China, Japan and South America shared their experiences overseas. Traveling to England in 1878, Smith joined the iconoclastic Methodist missionary Bishop William Taylor to preach in Calcutta, India, and then later, she spent eight years in Liberia. As a missionary preacher, she was known as a powerful preacher, causing missionary James Thoburn to remark, "During the seventeen years that I have lived in Calcutta, I have never known anyone who could draw and hold so large an audience as Mrs. Smith."

Upon returning to the U.S. in 1890, Smith wrote her autobiography, An Autobiography: The Story of the Lord's Dealing with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist, published in 1893. The book was reprinted at least six times and has become one of the better-known works by 19th century Black women writers. Using the proceeds of her book, Smith founded the Amanda Smith Orphanage and Industrial Home for Abandoned and Destitute Colored Children, gaining notoriety and the support of many, including the famous journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells. Due to failing health, Smith retired in 1912 and moved to Sebring, Florida, where she died on Feb. 24, 1915.

Religious Groups

Methodist/Pietist Family: Other ARDA Links
Methodist/Pietist Family: Religious Family Tree

Movements

Missionary Movement
Woman's Missionary Movement

Related Dictionary Terms

Christianity

Photographs

Amanda Berry Smith
Amanda Berry Smith
History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Anderson Chapel

Amanda Berry Smith in Africa
Amanda Berry Smith in Africa
Illinois Periodicals Online

Additional Resources

Amanda Berry Smith's Autobiography

Book/Journal Source(s)

Israel, Adrienne M., 1998. Amanda Berry Smith: From Washerwoman to Evangelist. Scarecrow Press, Incorporated, Lanham, Maryland..
Smith, Amanda Berry, 1893. An Autobiography: The Story of the Lord's Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist: Containing an Account of Her Life Work of Faith, and Her Travels in America, England, Ireland, Scotland, India, and Africa as an Independent Missionary Meyer & Brother Publishers, Chicago, Illinois.

Web Page Contributor

Jasmine Holmes
Affliated with: Author and educator

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