Image Courtesy of William Hull,
Santa Barbara, California
When she was thirteen, Amanda left home to work as a live-in domestic and began attending a Methodist church. In 1854, she married Calvin Devine and they had a daughter, Mazie, Amanda’s only child to live to adulthood. Calvin enlisted in the Union army and never returned home. In 1855, while Amanda was gravely ill, she dreamed that she was preaching at a camp meeting. She recovered from her illness and was converted not too long after that experience.
In 1865, Amanda Berry married James Smith with the hope of becoming a minister’s wife and pursuing church work through that venue. Unfortunately, James never became a minister. Their matrimonial conflicts were also compounded by the early deaths of several of their children. When James passed away in 1869, he and Amanda were living apart. Amanda began to preach and sing at holiness camp meetings in 1870, eventually becoming well-known for both of these talents.
In 1878, Amanda Berry Smith traveled overseas and preached in Great Britain, India, and for eight years in Liberia. Her time in Africa was particularly difficult, especially on her health. Upon her return to the states, she pursued her long-time dream of educating African American children by founding the Amanda Smith Orphanage and Industrial Home for Abandoned and Destitute Colored Children in Harvey, Illinois in 1899. Despite her relentless fundraising efforts, she never could support the school sufficiently. At the age of seventy-five, she left the school and moved to a home in Sebring, Florida, where she passed away on February 24, 1915.
Amanda Smith, An Autobiography: The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, The Colored Evangelist (1921); Adrienne M. Israel, Amanda Berry Smith: From Washerwoman to Evangelist (1998); Priscilla Pope-Levison, Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists (2004.)
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