Pastor’s Column: Why Celebrate African-American History?
There are many reasons to celebrate African-American history. As I thought about that question and its historical implication, let me offer a response:
Why celebrate Black or African-American history? It is simply an attempt to, in a sense, restore the dignity of people of the Negro race in these Americas, in view of their past.
The story of the struggle of African-Americans in the United States is all too familiar. But in this piece, I do not intend to rehash the history in terms of the treatment of the people of African descent. What I intend to show briefly is the fact that Africans are in the Bible. And that is where the celebration should really begin.
Africans in the Bible
So, let’s begin: One must start in the book of Genesis. Chapter 10 is referred to as the Table of Nations.
restore the dignity of people of the Negro race in these Americas…
Ham is the second son of Noah. After the genealogies are given, Ham moves away into the region that is known today as Africa. The word “Ham” in its roots can mean “black,” or “hot.” In Psalm 105:23, Egypt is called the land of Ham. So Ham, the second son of Noah is the father of the nations that are in Africa.
How about in the New Testament? On the road to Calvary, when the Lord Jesus is being led to be crucified, it seems along the way he may have stumbled several times.
Africans are in the Bible, and that is where the celebration should really begin!
After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples, while in Jerusalem (Acts 2), are told to wait for the promise of the Father – the sending of the Holy Spirit. “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven” (verse 2). Africans were present when Pentecost took place. Egypt and Libya make the list in verse 10.
Then finally (for this article) Acts chapter 8. Philip, the evangelist is sent by the Spirit and as he goes, he meets “a man of Ethiopia” (verse 27).
Africans were present when Pentecost took place.
After the worship experience, this powerful man is riding back in his chariot returning to Ethiopia. He is reading a scroll of Isaiah. This is when Philip meets him. A conversation ensures, with Philip asking the African if he understood what he was reading. He is not sure and he asks Philip to come and join him so as to guide him. .
Philip agrees, and climbing into the chariot, he begins to explain to the African what he was reading. And using that text, Philip “preaches” Jesus to the African. Finally, he confesses Christ and is baptized. At the conclusion of the text, the saved African “went on his way rejoicing.”
He went back home a believer in Jesus! He went back a saved African. To me, this is where the celebration of Black history begins!
We must celebrate African history because it is a history that is supported by the Bible, the Word of God!
Yes, Africans are in the Bible. Their roots in biblical history go back to Noah through one of his sons – Ham. Ham begets Cush and also Canaan. This is the African line from Noah. In the New Testament, Africans traveled freely in the ancient world. Some of them embraced Judaism. But others were converted to Christianity.
And yes, Africans have a unique history like other ethnic peoples. And yes, we must celebrate African history because it is a history that is supported by the Bible, the Word of God!
Suffering Isn’t Forgotten
But additionally, we must celebrate African history, because there is a portion of it that has to do with America. That piece makes it African-American history. And yes, we celebrate African-American history – now in America because, in a sense, this celebration; this listing of what black people in America have accomplished, helps to restore the dignity of people of the Negro race in these Americas, in view of their past.
…their struggles and tears are not forgotten.