Part I: Elizabeth Keckley:
Note: Taken from Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith. For more information on this stirring book, please visit: http://bit.ly/YmaM1
African American Sisters of the Spirit
African American sisters of the spirit like Elizabeth Keckley, who ministered to the grieving Mrs. Lincoln, and Octavia Albert, who ministered to the soul-wounds of ex-enslaved African Americans, vividly demonstrate how to move beyond suffering to healing hope. Their courageous, hope-based spiritual care is a small sampler, an appetizer, if you will, of a great breadth of wisdom for soul care and spiritual direction contained in the history of women in the African American Church.
While space allows just this sampler, history is filled with powerful and empowering examples of African American feminine sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding.[i] Though some have tried to silence their voices, their speaking of God’s truth in love with hope can still be heard by those with ears to hear and hearts to learn.
Elizabeth Keckley: A Voice of Hope
Picture the scene. It’s Civil War America. Women have no right to vote. Across the South, blacks have no rights whatsoever. President Lincoln is assassinated. His widow, Mary Lincoln, is devastated. To whom does she turn?
To a black woman. To Elizabeth Keckley.
In the story of her life Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, Elizabeth (1818-1907) explains, “. . . I have been intimately associated with that lady [Mrs. Lincoln] in the most eventful periods of her life. I have been her confidante . . . I have written with the utmost frankness in regard to her—have exposed her faults as well as given her credit for honest motives.”[ii]
Given the inauspicious beginnings of Elizabeth’s life story, her spiritual friendship with Mary Lincoln is staggering. “My life has been an eventful one. I was born a slave—was the child of slave parents—therefore I came upon the earth free in God-like thought, but fettered in action.”[iii]
How did a black woman of that cultural era become confidante to the slain President’s wife? Elizabeth expresses her understanding with Christian humility. “God rules the universe. I was a feeble instrument in His hands. . .”[iv]
The Rest of the Story
For the rest of the story, please return to this blog for part two . . .
[i]Readers can enjoy the empowering narratives of over two-dozen African American women (and scores of African American men) narrated in Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/XvsTu
[ii]Keckley, Behind the Scenes, xiv, xv.