Pastor’s Column: Why Celebrate African-American History?

BHM Pastor's ColumnCelebrating 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. [pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]restore the dignity of people of the Negro race in these Americas…[/pullquote] There are references in the text that indicate the presence of black people, or dark skinned people. Genesis 10 is that time in the history of the world after the flood, when Noah and his sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth) and their wives were the only humans alive.

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. [pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]Africans are in the Bible, and that is where the celebration should really begin![/pullquote] The Roman soldiers command one Simon, a man of Cyrene, to take the cross of Jesus, sort of helping Him, to go the last leg to Golgotha (Matthew 27:32; Luke 23:26). We know this person to be dark skinned or African because his country of origin is in North Africa. Cyrene is a part of Libya.

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). [pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]Africans were present when Pentecost took place.[/pullquote] This man is an African, and when we pay close attention to the text, he is something like a finance minister, or secretary of the treasury. He is in charge of the treasures of the Queen of Ethiopia, Candace. What is even more interesting is that this African, had come to Jerusalem to worship. That would suggest he was a Jew, or at the least, he was interested in the Jewish religion.

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![pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]We must celebrate African history because it is a history that is supported by the Bible, the Word of God![/pullquote]

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.

[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]…their struggles and tears are not forgotten.[/pullquote] We celebrate African-American history in these United States to give voice to the generations of Africans who have passed on; that their struggles and tears are not forgotten. But we celebrate it also to remember the journey; the stories; the pain; the suffering; the hope!


Charles GoahRev. Charles Goah is senior pastor of United Christian Fellowship Church.  He is originally from Monrovia, Liberia, in West Africa.

January 14, 2016

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