Can I be honest? When I was younger, I was super-excited about Black History Month. I loved learning about those who had come before me and the great things they accomplished. But, as I got older, it appealed less to me because there was a disconnect. Sure, they are black, but how are they connected to me, other than sharing the same skin color? Yes, we can look at all the usual suspects like Harriet Tubman or Martin Luther King, Jr. when it comes to black history, but I needed to go beyond that.

It wasn’t until I dug into my family tree that this started to change. I learned and saw things that brought joy to my heart. Now I look at Black History Month more personally and with a view toward the Christian faith. You see, while there is no one famous in my family, there is a long legacy of the Faith, and this legacy has had a personal impact.

Today, I want to share a little about my family and my own legacy of faith. Then I’ll share a few books that you can read to give you some more perspective when it comes to black history and Christianity.

Eldridge Staten

Reverend Eldridge Staten

Eldridge Lincoln Staten is my second great-grandfather. He was the eldest of eight children born to Preston and Dehlia Staten. Born in May 1868/9 in Virginia, Eldridge became the first generation of my family to be born post-slavery.

Taking full advantage of his freedom, Eldridge also found freedom for his soul in the gospel of Jesus Christ. His faith transformed him as he dedicated his life to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. The work of the gospel became his vocation, preaching to any who would listen. Whether it was his family or neighbors, he was about God’s business. He eventually founded St. Paul Baptist Church in Amherst, Virginia, a church whose doors remain open to this day. This is the very church my parents and grandparents attended and where they met the Lord.

Eldridge ended his gospel work when he died in 1948 at the age of 79.

William Johnson

Me (LaRosa) and my grandfather (William) at his 90th birthday celebration

William Johnson is my paternal grandfather. He was born in 1925 in Dewitt, Virginia. William Johnson came to marry Marion Staten, one of the many granddaughters of Eldridge Staten. Settling in Amherst, Virginia, William was an entrepreneur and handyman. While his hands provided for his family, it was his dedication to the Lord that set him apart in an area where racial tensions ran high. Everyone loved and respected William, so much so that he became the first “negro” to serve on the Amherst County school board. He was an honest man who lived out the gospel, faithfully serving as a deacon at St. Paul Baptist Church. And, like Eldridge, William made sure the gospel was central to his family’s life.

In December 2015 I had the privilege of attending his 90th birthday celebration. It was amazing to see so many family and friends come together to celebrate this man’s life. The stories of his faithfulness astounded me. Everyone talked about how he would take children (including his own) to sing at surrounding churches, or how he would do whatever he could to lend a helping hand to whoever was in need. No matter what he did, William lived a Christlike life and this is how his community remembers him.

My grandfather faithfully served the Lord until he took his final breath on April 9, 2018.

A Family Legacy

Why does this matter? Because without these men, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’m a man whose life is dedicated to the gospel. As an Olive Tree employee, it is their legacy that pushes me to inspire people to connect with God and study the Bible through technology. These men from a small, insignificant town in Virginia have had an impact that helps people all around the world experience Christ because of the work I get to do.

And just to seal the deal on that family legacy: my birthday gift to my grandfather on his 90th birthday was preaching the Sunday morning sermon at St. Paul Baptist Church. How cool is that!

Black history is my history, but it’s also American and Church history. I am thankful these men lived lives worth honoring.

Great Black History Month Reads

Now, of course, black history does not end with my family. There are so many great men and women of color who have been champions of the Faith or have benefitted from the faithfulness of those who came before them. Below are some fantastic resources that are worth adding to your library and giving a read.

1 Comment

  1. I believe if you keep your faith, you keep your trust, you keep the right attitude, if you’re grateful, you’ll see God open up new doors.

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