“Washington is a hard training ground for preachers.”

This quote probably remains as accurate today as it was 100 years ago when it was made by famous black pastor Francis James Grimké. [1]

Grimké was born to a slave mother in South Carolina in 1850. When his guardian tried to sell him into slavery, he escaped and served as a valet in the Confederate Army. He was taken hostage and almost died, but was nursed back to health by his mother only to be sold into slavery to a Confederate officer, spending the rest of the Civil War as a slave. [2]

When emancipation was finally achieved, Francis first attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and then graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary as an ordained Presbyterian minister,  [3] becoming pastor of Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C. [4] As famous black historian Carter Woodson reported, his ministry had a definite impact:

During the first years of the ministry of Mr. Grimké, which began in the spring of 1878, there was a great spiritual awakening as the result of his forceful preaching. [5]

Grimké pastored this church for almost 50 years, [6] and during one of his sermons, he reminded his congregation:

It is now no longer a question as to whether we are a nation, or a confederation of sovereign and independent states. That question is settled, and settled once for all by the issue [outcome] of the [Civil] War. …The Stars and Stripes, the old flag, will float, as long as it floats, over all these states, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Lakes to the Gulf. If the time ever comes when we shall go to pieces, it will not be form any desire or disposition on the part of the states to pull apart, but from inward corruption — from the disregard of right principles, from the spirit of greed, from the narrowing lust of gold, from losing sight of the fact that “righteousness exalteth a nation, but that sin is a reproach to any people” [Proverbs 14:34]. It is here where our real danger lies – not in the secession of the States from the Union, but in the secession of the Union itself from the great and immutable principles of right, of justice, of fair play for all regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. [7]

This same principle applies to America today. Let us remember to seriously regard the warning issued by Rev. Grimké and to continue to walk in those “immutable principles of right” that are found in the Holy Scriptures.



[1] William H. Ferris, The African Abroad (New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, 1913), Vol. 2, p. 889.
[2] William J. Simmons, Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive, and Rising (Cleveland: Geo. M. Rewell & Co., 1887), pp. 608-609.
[3] “Grimke, Francis J.,” Who’s who of the Colored Race: A General Biographical Dictionary of Men and Women of African Descent, Frank Lincoln Mather, editor (Chicago, 1915), Vol. 1, p. 125.
[4] William J. Simmons, Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive, and Rising (Cleveland: Geo. M. Rewell & Co., 1887), p. 610.
[5] The Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor (Lancaster, PA: The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Inc., 1922), Vol. 7, p. 81.
[6] Dictionary of American Negro Biography, s.v. “Grimke, Francis James.”
[7] Masterpieces of Negro Eloquence, Alice Moore Dunbar, editor (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2000), p. 246, Rev. Francis J. Grimke, from “Equality of Right for All Citizens, Black and White, Alike,” March 7, 1909.

* Originally posted: January 4, 2017.