/ Black History Month / Kit Swartz

Black History Month: Francis James Grimke

(Author’s Note: This post is a continuation of short pieces submitted to local papers as letters to the editor which is the extent of my present opportunity. Though very limited, I am persuaded that this is something I should do.  Also, I hope that these letters will be an encouragement to others to seek and seize the same opportunity in their local papers.)

Grimke (1850-1937) was the son of a slave owner and a slave, born in Charleston, South Carolina into a difficult childhood. After graduating from Lincoln University (1870) and Princeton Seminary (1878), he pastored the 15thStreet Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. until 1928.  He was a skillful orator and wrote extensively in the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition including earnest labors for justice for his fellow African Americans.  He wrote forcefully as in this excerpt: “I am distressed for the future of one of our churches.  The trash that is served up to the people on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings is deplorable. The sermons and exhortations are made up largely of the gleanings of newspapers and magazines, with precious little of the word of God in them, and, even when it comes in, is handled in the most superficial manner.  No church can be built up on that kind of preaching and no church can be made strong morally and spiritually unless it is fed on the word of God…  The pastor is manifestly a misfit in this pulpit. He is not qualified to meet its demands, or else he is not exerting himself sufficiently to do so. How long this condition is to continue God only knows; but it cannot long continue if this church is to be saved and is to be continued as an agency for the moral and spiritual uplift of the membership and of the community.” We all would do well to examine ourselves under this penetrating critique by a highly esteemed black pastor.

Kit Swartz   Oswego, NY