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The Reverend Jennie Johnson and African Canadian

The Reverend Jennie Johnson and African Canadian

Nina Reid-Maroney
Volume: 5
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    The Reverend Jennie Johnson and African Canadian
    Book Description:

    After her conversion to Christianity and baptism at sixteen, Jennie Johnson followed the call to preach. Raised in an African Canadian abolitionist community in Ontario, she immigrated to the United States to attend the African Methodist Episcopal Seminary at Wilberforce University. On an October evening in 1909 she stood before a group of Free Will Baptist preachers in the small town of Goblesville, Michigan, and was received into ordained ministry. She was the first ordained woman to serve in Canada, and spent her life building churches and working for racial justice on both sides of the national border. In this first extended study of Jennie Johnson's fascinating and understudied life, Nina Reid-Maroney reconstructs Johnson's nearly one-hundred-year story -- from her upbringing in a slave refugee settlement in nineteenth-century Canada to her work as an activist and Christian minister in the modern civil rights movement. This critical biography of a figure who outstripped the racial and religious barriers of her time offers a unique and powerful view of the struggle for freedom in North America. Nina Reid-Maroney is Associate Professor in the Department of History at Huron University College at Western (London, Ontario) and the coeditor of "The Promised Land: History and Historiography of Black Experience in Chatham-Kent's Settlements"

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-796-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Jennie Johnson was an African Canadian Baptist preacher, by all accounts the first ordained woman in Canada called as a full-time minister, settling in her own church twenty-seven years before Lydia Gruchy of the United Church of Canada became the first woman ordained by a Canadian denomination. This book is about Johnson’s life. Because the materials about Johnson that survive do not tell us the things we would most like to know about her, and because she avoided the spotlight, the work that follows cannot be called a full biography. Nonetheless, this study of a life known only through fragments,...

  6. Chapter One “In Their Adopted Land”: Johnson’s Family in Canada
    (pp. 9-33)

    In the fullness of an August heat wave in 1854, Frederick Douglass traveled across Canada West from Niagara Falls toward the town of Chatham on the Thames River. As he approached Chatham, Douglass marveled at the productivity of the land, finding promise everywhere (“We saw not an unthrifty corn field in Canada”) and elevating his praise of the black pioneers to spiritual terms. “They are leveling the forest,” Douglass wrote, “clearing the land, converting the wilderness into fertile fields and causing the very earth to rejoice in their presence.”¹

    Such confidence in the land was well placed. The territory Douglass...

  7. Chapter Two “As Lively Stones”: Abolitionist Culture in Johnson’s Dresden
    (pp. 34-47)

    After the service to mark the one hundredth anniversary of Dresden’s Anglican church in June of 1959, the visiting priest made an unusual notation in the Preacher’s Book, the meticulous record of services dating back to the earliest days of the church in the 1860s: “Tonight this service was attended by Miss Jennie Johnson, aged 94, who is the daughter of Mr. Isaiah Johnson; a fugitive slave who escaped and who became associated with ‘Uncle Tom’; the Reverend Josiah Henson; and the Reverend Thomas Hughes, founder and first Rector of Christ Church. Miss Johnson spoke a few words at the...

  8. Chapter Three A Resurrection Story: Conversion and Calling
    (pp. 48-64)

    In July 1868, questions of nationhood weighed on the minds of Canadians and Americans alike. Canada marked the first anniversary of the confederation experiment; Congress ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, the second—and, in the end, the most sorely tested—of the three constitutional pillars of radical Reconstruction. Those of an optimistic turn of mind could still feel the promise of jubilee in the air, even if they also could see the outline of what W. E. B. Du Bois would one day eulogize as Reconstruction’s “splendid failure.”¹ For Thomas Hughes in Dresden, 1868 was “‘the day of small things’ with...

  9. Chapter Four Wilberforce University
    (pp. 65-81)

    From all directions the rail lines into Xenia, Ohio, brought visitors to the doorstep of Wilberforce University, the oldest institution of higher learning owned by an African American institution and entirely led by African American administrators. At the Xenia station, students who could afford to dip into their college money might call for a carriage to take them on the last stage of their travels, but most of the new arrivals at Wilberforce came on foot, uphill across the mile-long track that led from the Wilberforce rail station to the university campus. Indeed, Wilberforce administrators intended it to be this...

  10. Chapter Five Ordination
    (pp. 82-103)

    Through the long winter of 1893 and into the spring of 1894, while Jennie Johnson was still attending Wilberforce lectures, spiritual revival was abroad once more in the Baptist community of Chatham Township. Churches could not contain it. In the wake of the revival, a new religious community emerged in the Prince Albert district a few miles to the south of the Johnson homestead along the tenth concession. The implications of a new church in the making were not yet clear for Jennie Johnson, who returned to her home after three years at Wilberforce. She was not bound for Africa,...

  11. Chapter Six Flint
    (pp. 104-125)

    In 1925, Jennie Johnson left her Prince Albert Baptist congregation for an uncertain and unlikely venture across the border in Michigan. As an accomplished woman of fifty-seven, easier paths were open to her, but the road to Flint and a new mission was as clear to her now as the path to mission work in Africa had once seemed. This time she made the decision long before she could even envision the details. “In 1925,” Johnson wrote simply, “I saw the need for spiritual guidance and for material help as well for those of my race who had come from...

  12. Chapter Seven “God Forbid That I Should Glory”: Johnson and History
    (pp. 126-134)

    An exchange of letters in 1962 between Johnson and Rev. L. A. Gregory, general secretary of the Baptist Conference in Ontario, shows Johnson at the age of ninety-four responding to Gregory’s official inquiry about her life and ministry. On Gregory’s side, there is a lightly concealed curiosity about an ordained woman whose life story intersected with his own professional path even as it remained something of a mystery. On Johnson’s side there is a frank interest in the official preserving of the record. “I shall be most pleased,” she wrote, “to have you place any books or papers of my...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 135-166)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-178)
  15. Index
    (pp. 179-186)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 187-187)