(BPRW) The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) presents the next page of Our American Story
(Black PR Wire) The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is proud to present the next page ofm Our American History, an online series for Museum supporters. We offer these stories to honor and celebrate the African American experience, to share a tremendously rich history and culture, and to inspire and support our community as we move into the future together.
The Second Great Awakening, an early 19th century religious revival in the United States, marked an era of transformation for America and a new path forward for Jarena Lee. Born into a free black family in Cape May, New Jersey, in 1783, Lee navigated the intense religiosity and social reform of her time to become the nation’s first African-American female preacher and the first woman to be recognized as a evangelist among men. – African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) dominated.
Lee’s journey to Christianity began when she moved to Philadelphia as a young adult in 1807. Like many Americans of her time, Lee struggled with changing cultural beliefs about human nature, morality and the way to salvation. Seeking answers, she sought a personal connection to the gospel and heard the teachings of Bishop Richard Allen, a renowned preacher from Philadelphia. Inspired by his powerful sermons, Lee decided to join the church and get baptized.
But Lee’s journey of faith would be difficult. Lee struggled to find a place for herself and her passion for the gospel within the male-dominated church — a battle that led to depression and even suicidal thoughts. She also struggled with the inherent conflict between her spirituality and a desire for “the vanities of this life.”
Despite these challenges, Lee remained determined to reach beyond the church and share her faith in Christ with the world, a belief she brought back to New Jersey, where she moved with her new husband, pastor Methodist Joseph Lee, in 1811. New Jersey, Lee was able to serve in an African Methodist congregation and nurture her faith, but she still could not practice what she believed to be her true calling: preaching.
Seven years after her marriage, Lee was widowed. The grief that followed her husband’s death only strengthened Lee’s belief in “preaching the word of God.” She returned to Philadelphia soon after, determined to champion women in ministry.
Bishop Allen, who had then founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church, initially refused to grant Lee permission to preach due to the church’s ban on female ministers. But Lee, driven by the intensity of her faith, began giving sermons wherever she could, in open fields, public squares and in her home.
One day while attending a Sunday worship service at Bishop Allen’s Church, Lee overheard a guest preacher struggling with the delivery of his sermon. She sprang into action, picking up where he left off, and presented her own testimony. Bishop Allen was so impressed with Lee’s preaching and boldness that he publicly endorsed it. She was soon licensed to preach and later became the first ordained female preacher in the AME Church.
Lee’s evangelical career spanned several decades and intersected with her advocacy for equal rights and her powerful leadership in the abolitionist movement. Lee was also the first African-American woman to publish an autobiographical memoir, The life and religious experience of Jarena Lee, a woman of color, reporting on her call to preach the gospel, which was first published in 1836.
“For however improper it may seem nowadays for a woman to preach,” wrote Lee, “it must be remembered that nothing is impossible with God. And why should it be considered impossible. . . or improper for a woman to preach?
The relentless persistence of Jarena Lee, who died in 1864, helped break down barriers and pave the way for African American women to enter the ministry. Her achievements were particularly remarkable, given that they occurred at a time when the contributions of women were often overlooked, ignored or forgotten.
Like so many trailblazers of his time, Lee’s story is one of resilience, optimism and spirituality, values deeply rooted in African American history and culture. Although Jarena Lee’s story is not widely known, her legacy as the first African-American woman preacher stands as an important example of women challenging social barriers, transcending traditional gender roles and touching hearts, minds and the soul of many.
If you would like to learn more about Jarena Lee’s incredible journey – or if you would like to explore other powerful but lesser-known stories from African American history – please visit our online site Searchable museum today. This groundbreaking initiative – and winner of the 2022 CIO Award – from the Museum brings innovative, immersive digital experiences and evocative content directly into the homes of fans like you.
The museum’s digital exhibits and collections help connect individuals with a deeper understanding of African American history by sharing the lives of pioneers like Jarena Lee. Please help the Museum continue this vital work by join the museum or make a donation today.
To learn more about Jarena Lee and other influential figures in African American history, please visit our Searchable museum.
The content and opinions expressed in this press release are those of the authors and/or companies represented, and are not necessarily shared by Black PR Wire. The author(s) and/or companies represented are solely responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the content of this press release. Black PR Wire reserves the right to reject a press release if, in Black PR Wire’s opinion, the contents of the release are unsuitable for distribution.