Black History of Unitarian Universalism

By Susan Lawrence

Darkening the Doorways Black Trailblazers and Missed Opportunities in Unitarian Universalism

By Mark D. Morrison-Reed
From Skinner House Books

Life stories and achievements of African Americans in Unitarian Universalism...

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In February, Americans say the names and retell the stories of African Americans whose achievements and contributions helped to shape us as a nation. When we investigate our shared past, we learn more about who we are today.

Historical images of black UUs, organized left to right

Like America, Unitarian Universalism has been pushed forward in large and small ways by many prophetic voices. The stories linked below invite families and congregations to meet or recall UU forebears of African heritage who have helped to shape our movement.

These stories are suitable for a congregation’s Time for All Ages and can be read at home as bedtime stories as well.

  • Themes of self-determination, truth-telling, and leadership link the lives of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Ethelred Brown.
  • John Cashin ran for elected office in the Jim Crow South. His determined, public participation in democratic process pushed open doors for other African American candidates, voters, and new registrants in the Civil Rights era.
  • Ellen and William Craft were a couple who cleverly and bravely escaped slavery in Georgia, only to be tracked to Massachusetts by “slave-catchers” empowered by the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. Learn about the Crafts and their journey at Discover the community and protection they found among Boston’s Unitarian abolitionists in a Tapestry of Faith story, “Theodore Parker and the Crafts.”
  • Black Lives of UU’s teach-in resources include stories of four Unitarians and Universalists born in the 19th century who lived into the 20th: Lewis McGee, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Fannie Barrier Williams, and Annie B. Jordan Willis. With each story are questions and activities to further connect with these figures and what their achievements mean for us today.

About the Author

Susan Lawrence

Susan Lawrence, Managing Editor, Lifespan Faith Engagement for the UUA and editor of the UU World Families section, has worked as a community media producer, a high school teacher, and a freelance writer and editor. Susan identifies as European Jewish and belongs to the Unitarian Universalist...

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