My friend, Avis Wanda McClinton, continues to challenge and educate me, and I hope, others, about both the history of enslavement and the continued oppression of people of color today. In this message Avis includes some queries for us all to consider. This earlier blog post has more about Avis and Quakers, and includes the following queries:
Query: Does your faith community face the need of having honest and open discussions about the legacy of slavery with all its hurtful facets? Can we accept the strong feelings that will arise from these discussions?
Query: Is your faith community prepared to work with your local community to create a racially diverse and equal society?
Query: As a Friend would you allow another individual to insult, demean, hurt, or exclude another from his or her worship? How can people just stand there and let bad things happen?
It is my understanding that there are different practices among Quaker meetings regarding the use of queries. In Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) each of our monthly meetings considers one of twelve sets of queries each month. The summary of each month’s query is then sent to the Yearly Meeting, and a selection from those responses is read during our annual meeting sessions, and included in the printed Minutes. You might encourage your meeting to consider Avis’s queries this year.
This is Avis Wanda McClinton an old, black, Pennsylvania Quaker woman who wants you to understand the blindness I see among the Friends of Middletown Monthly Meeting, Langhorne, Pennsylvania and many other predominantly white meetings.
There are people who are unaware that Quakers kidnapped and held black people in chattel slavery for generations.
Even George Fox founder of Quakerism seldom spoke out against the institution of slavery.
The unsavory reality of the Religious Society of Friends slave heritage is the brutality and violence white Quakers perpetrated on people of African decent.
This has rarely if ever been written about in history books.
These were people who would dig a hole big enough for a pregnant woman to rest her stomach in to be whipped mercilessly.
The first abolitionists were African men and women who were enslaved, NOT white Quakers who were in fact slow to give freedom to those they first exploited and regarded as pieces of property and creatures devoid of souls.
The rediscovery of the graves of enslaved Africans, causes us to see the continued ties to slavery’s vile history and it’s legacy that still effect race relations in our society.
Old meeting houses were built by slave labor. Has your meeting located the site of a whipping post used to punish and maim black bodies?
Has your meeting accepted the Truth that early Friends were enslavers, probably before any them were abolitionists?
Enslavers made a profit on deceased black bodies by selling them to medical schools.
White America amassed tremendous wealth and white-skinned privilege through the exploitation of innocent African men, women and children.
Friend Benjamin Lay, called slave owning Quakers, “Christian Hypocrites” and “Spawns of Satan”! In his eyes, the existence of the “peculiar institution” was a direct and constant violation of the “inner light” belief of Quakers.
To hold another human being in bondage is an injustice and is innately evil. The erroneous idea we have inherited from slavery is that black people are inferior to white people and the domination of black bodies by white people is appropriate.
Friend, if you are uncomfortable by my heartfelt words, understand from whence they came. Perhaps God is trying to reach you in a way I can’t.
Being ever mindful of the ‘white fragility’ of Friends. I will say I was understandably pissed at Middletown Friends for willfully ignoring of my ministry. It is morally wrong for white Quakers to step in (entitlement) and take over when I am here!
Dismissal of African American Quakers concerns doesn’t begat a racially diverse society of Friends.
Faultless people were stolen from Africa and lived their entire lives held in bondage by religious people that wouldn’t see the God in them.
White friends can trace their lineage back for hundreds of years.
African Americans however, are depended on the descendants of the white people who enslaved their ancestors to resurrect their genealogy because they hold the records.
The Religious Society of Friends’ centuries old practice of enslavement of African people left a vast repository of genealogical information and documentation about where their slave ships departed Africa and the life experiences of the captured human beings that they brought and sold.
It’s important to share this information about the enslaved Africans interred in Quaker graveyards both locally and more broadly with such groups like the “Honoring Those Known Only To God” a Quaker project, the Smithsonian’s African American Museum and Ancestry.com., the world’s largest online family history resource, in the hopes that any African American searching for his or her biological family can be reunited with them.
I feel called to speak plainly with you.
When God tells me to do anything, He means for me to be obedient. My sacred calling to find the enslaved Africans graves in Quaker’s graveyards is immensely important to me, because I am finding my ancestors and adding to the history of African American people in America. I have a deeper reverence and appreciation for my ancestors and what their lives means to my life, to America, and to the world.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting prohibited members from owning slaves in 1776.
But there were also Quakers who wouldn’t free their Africans captives.
A Philadelphia Yearly Meeting minute of acknowledgement of their role in the slave trade would be a start to healing.
What consideration has been given to the powerful emotions that will arise in those attending the event at Middletown Meeting?
My hope in researching the American slavery era is for a more humane world and a better existence for everyone. We are all God’s children.
We are in this together, folks.
Avis Wanda McClinton
A child of God’s